Thinking about upgrading to Mac OS 8.1? Geoff Duncan offers two helpful articles this week for making the leap. The first discusses most of the feature enhancements in Mac OS 8.1, and the second focuses squarely on Macintosh Extended Format, the improved disk format previously known as HFS Plus. In other news, Netscape has made Navigator available for free and, in a blow to overseas users, Eudora Pro 4.0 for the Mac won’t be available internationally.
Free Netscape — In a move aimed at stemming the gains Microsoft Internet Explorer has made in the Web browser market, Netscape Communications announced last week that it is making Netscape Navigator and Netscape Communicator Standard Edition free (Netscape Communicator Professional Edition costs $29). In a related announcement, Netscape launched an "Unlimited Distribution" program that allows computer makers, ISPs, content providers, publishers, and others to download and redistribute Netscape Navigator and Communicator for free. Finally, Netscape said it would make the source code to the next version of Netscape Communicator available for free on the Internet for modification and redistribution. These are bold moves but may be necessary for a company that industry juggernaut Microsoft has targeted as direct competition. [ACE]
No Eudora Pro 4.0 for Macintosh Overseas — Qualcomm has confirmed that Eudora Pro 4.0 for Macintosh may never be made available outside of North America. The problem is that in those markets, Qualcomm is signing up local "re-publishers" who will be responsible for localization, sales, marketing, and distribution. To date, none have been willing to expend effort and resources on the Macintosh version, citing insufficient demand to justify the cost despite the fact that international sales account for 50 percent of Apple’s sales. Exacerbating the problem is the fact that Qualcomm’s PGP license requires that it be bundled with every copy of the domestic Eudora Pro; since PGP contains strong encryption, it cannot be exported internationally. Reportedly, once all the re-publishers sign up, Qualcomm will post contact information for them so Mac users can petition those companies for support. Eudora Pro 3.1 (see our review of Eudora Pro 3.0 in TidBITS-357) remains available internationally. [ACE]
Open Transport 1.3 — Mac OS 8.1 includes Open Transport 1.3, an update to Apple’s networking software. OT 1.3 offers general performance improvements, better recognition of serial ports – particularly in conjunction with PC Card modems – and numerous tweaks and bug fixes. What’s new and exciting about OT 1.3 is single-link multihoming, which enables a Mac’s Ethernet hardware to respond to more than one IP address simultaneously (for example, a server can more easily serve multiple Web sites, each having its own domain name). Previously, this functionality was only available on Macs via MkLinux, WebTen, or other Unix-like products. Although users who use modems to access the Internet won’t much care about single-link multihoming, it can be critically important to Internet service providers who host Internet servers on Macs.
Administrators configure single-link multihoming via a text file called IP Secondary Addresses stored in the Preferences folder – the exact format is included in OT 1.3’s Technical Info document. However, just because OT supports multiple IP addresses doesn’t mean Internet applications do, and most Internet server applications must be revised to offer direct support. (QuidProQuo 2.1 and the public beta of WebSTAR 3.0 already do.) Although single-link multihoming is a new and welcome capability, it doesn’t put alternatives like HomeDoor and ClearlyHome out of business; OT 1.3 assumes administrators have IP addresses to spare and lacks some of the special features of these add-on products. [GD]
Apple has released Mac OS 8.1, and the Macintosh community is buzzing with talk about the new components and trying to figure out the new (and optional) disk format, Macintosh Extended Format, also known as HFS Plus. We have an article about HFS Plus later in this issue, so here I’ll talk about what else is new in 8.1 and how to install it.
What’s New Besides HFS Plus? Mac OS 8.1 offers faster launch times and speedier copying to and from network volumes. There’s also a new control for Finder list views that reverses a window’s sort direction (handy for listing items from oldest to newest, for example). Less visibly, the Finder eliminates several memory leaks when using Apple events, so scripting the Mac OS 8.1 Finder is more robust.
Mac OS 8.1 also ships with support for new types of storage media: UDF (Universal Disk Format) CD-ROMs and DVD-ROM disks. To use a UDF formatted CD-ROM, you need at least a double-speed CD-ROM drive. No Macs have yet shipped with DVD-ROM drives, but E4 has reportedly demonstrated a CoolDVD PCI card that enables Macs to use external third-party DVD-ROM drives.
Mac OS 8.1 brings together a large collection of new (and recently new) system components. Those who swap files with Windows users will welcome PC Exchange 2.2, which supports Windows 95’s long file names and has greatly improved support for PC-based removable media and disk formats. A new SoundSource control strip module can quickly change a machine’s audio input source. The choices vary with your Mac’s hardware, but commonly include microphone and audio CD inputs, as well as "none," which can help prevent the Mac’s automatic monitoring of sound input from interfering with some audio software. Under Mac OS 8.1, applications also have greater control over audio input and output.
There’s also LaserWriter 8.5.1 (see "LaserWriter Edges Up to 8.5.1" in TidBITS-406), Open Transport 1.3 (see "Open Transport 1.3" earlier in this issue), Apple CD-ROM 5.4.2, AppleShare 3.7.4 and updates to built-in Ethernet drivers, Text Encoding Converter 1.3 (see below for more info), Monitors and Sound 1.3.3, and Macintosh Runtime for Java (MRJ) 2.0. Not every item is the most recent; for instance, Mac OS 8.1 contains the Apple Remote Access 2.1.1 client, but ARA 3.0 client and personal server are available commercially.
In the retail version, Apple is shipping Location Manager 2.0.1. The original version, which came with Mac OS 7.6.1, enabled PowerBook users to switch network, printing, and other settings between predefined sets. The new version also works on many desktop computers. Although it’s not in the Mac OS 8.1 Update, Location Manager 2.0.1 can be downloaded from Apple’s servers. Similarly, QuickDraw 3D 1.5.3 improves support for high-end graphics cards and is in the retail release of Mac OS 8.1 and on Apple’s servers, but is not included in the Mac OS 8.1 Update.
Mac OS 8.1 also includes LocalTalkPCI, a PowerPC-native LocalTalk driver built for use under Open Transport. Although LocalTalkPCI eliminates lackluster LocalTalk performance on Apple’s new G3 systems, it can cause LocalTalk printers to disappear from the Chooser. If that happens, disable the LocalTalkPCI extension: you’ll lose the performance improvements, but be able to print.
Getting Mac OS 8.1 — Mac OS 8.1 is available in two forms. The first is an online update for owners of Mac OS 8 that can be downloaded for free. Apple has posted the update in BinHex and MacBinary versions, both as a large (15 to 22 MB) single file and as thirteen smaller files.
The second form is a retail Mac OS 8.1 CD-ROM, which will be available beginning in February for $19.95 to owners of Mac OS 8, and at normal retail prices through other outlets (expect prices from $65 to $100). Also in February, new Apple CPUs should ship with Mac OS 8.1 pre-installed.
The Mac OS 8.1 update works only on U.S. versions of Mac OS 8. Look for localized versions in April, though some versions may appear sooner.
System Requirements — Mac OS 8.1’s system requirements are the same as Mac OS 8’s: a 68040- or PowerPC-based machine with at least 12 MB of physical RAM. The disk space required by the update varies, depending on the Mac OS 8 components that are already installed. However, it’s a good bet that you’ll need at least 40 MB of space to update a disk with Mac OS 8 already installed; luckily, the update may need some of that space only during installation.
If you use a clock-chip accelerator on a NuBus Power Mac, you may need to remove the accelerator to install or update to Mac OS 8.1. Alternatively, you can try software utilities that pose an accelerated Mac as a different model; my experience with them has been decidedly mixed. If you try to update a PowerPC-based Mac with 16 MB RAM or less, you may have to restart without extensions (press Shift during startup) to install the update.
Installing Mac OS 8.1 Update — Apple is distributing the Mac OS 8.1 Update as a self-mounting disk image, so there’s no need to use a disk image program. (If you download the segmented version, you need not join the parts, but they must all be in the same folder.) Just double-click the disk image (or the first archive segment) to mount the image on your desktop. From there, it’s theoretically just a question of running the installer.
As with any update to system software, back up your current system and data before updating. In addition, it’s a good idea to make a bootable Disk Tools floppy disk with Mac OS 8.1 before you update. If you have a PowerPC-based machine, use the Disk Tools PPC disk image, available at the same location as the Mac OS 8.1 Update on Apple’s FTP sites. (You need Disk Copy 6.1 or ShrinkWrap 3.0 to make a floppy disk from this image.) For a 68040-based Mac, you must use the Disk Tools 1 disk image, which is apparently available only from the Mac OS 8.1 retail CD-ROM.
After installing Mac OS 8.1, some third-party utilities may report that Open Transport 1.3 libraries (plus the AppleTalk and TCP/IP control panels) are "damaged" because they contain 11 extra bytes. Apple has acknowledged the problem, but the files should function normally. There’s no need to use ResEdit or a utility program to fix the files.
Incompatibilities — Although software compatibility with Mac OS 8.1 is generally good, I’m listing a few updates and known problems. Also, for a comprehensive list, check the long Mac OS 8.1 special report by MacInTouch, MacFixIt, and MRP.
As reported in TidBITS-411, Conflict Catcher 4.1 is required for use with Mac OS 8.1. The update from 4.0 is free.
Although some components of Speed Doubler 8 appear to work with Mac OS 8.1, Connectix says Speed Doubler 8.1 is required and an update will be available soon.
StuffIt SpaceSaver 4.5 will prevent machines running Mac OS 8.1 from starting up. Users can disable the StuffIt SpaceSaver control panel; Aladdin says an update is forthcoming.
Asante NetDoubler reports a disk error when performing a drag & drop file transfer. Asante has posted an interim release that disables acceleration in this particular case; look for an update to NetDoubler in February.
St. Clair Software’s Default Folder, a popular shareware replacement for Super Boomerang under Mac OS 8, has been updated to version 2.8 to provide Mac OS 8.1 compatibility.
In the End — Some people are disappointed by the lack of overt new features, such as a more configurable Finder appearance. However, third-party utilities are filling the gap, including Quadratic Software’s CoolViews (which allows serious customization of Mac OS 8 Finder windows), and the popular desktop makeover utility Kaleidoscope.
If you have large disks with large numbers of files, the new Macintosh Extended Format might be welcome, but I don’t currently recommend switching to Macintosh Extended Format unless you are comfortable with the issues surrounding it (see next article). Otherwise, if you already use Mac OS 8, I think the update is worthwhile, particularly if you don’t use software that needs to be updated for it. Apple isn’t charging for the update, and the bug fixes and additional components will likely be worth the trouble of installing the new version.
The most talked-about but least understood feature of Mac OS 8.1 is an optional new file system known as Macintosh Extended Format (formerly known as HFS Plus). Macintosh Extended Format replaces Apple’s increasingly creaky HFS file system (now called Macintosh Standard Format) with a robust, modern file system that can grow with the Macintosh and Rhapsody for the next several years.
Again, Macintosh Extended Format is optional: it’s not required to use Mac OS 8.1, and installing Mac OS 8.1 does not reformat your disks as Extended Format volumes. You can use Mac OS 8.1 without giving any more thought to Extended Format. Extended Format volumes also co-exist with HFS disks happily, both on the same computer and over a network.
Allocation Blocks — So, what’s the big deal about Macintosh Extended Format, and what’s wrong with the current HFS system? Time for a history lesson. The Macintosh Standard Format – HFS – was released in 1986 when a big disk was 20 MB, replacing Apple’s original Macintosh File System (MFS). MFS worked for 400K floppies, but couldn’t handle large numbers of files. Heck, MFS didn’t even handle folders.
In contrast to MFS, HFS could handle what was then an unimaginably large 2 GB volume size and more than 65,000 allocation blocks. It used balanced "binary trees" (b-trees) to store and retrieve information quickly, featured a volume bitmap to track a drive’s allocation blocks, and wasn’t burdened by klutzy file paths (like those used under DOS).
These days, disks in the 4 to 8 GB range are commonplace, and capacities will continue to increase. Although HFS has features many other file systems lack, and Apple has extended its capabilities over the years – it can now handle volumes up to two terabytes, for instance – at its core, HFS wastes a lot of space on today’s disks and has other limitations which, though endearing, pose stumbling blocks in the years ahead.
HFS wastes space? You bet. At a basic level, disks are divided into logical blocks, which are almost always 512 bytes. However, computer file systems – both on the Mac and other platforms – dole out space in terms of allocation blocks, which are contiguous groupings of those 512-byte logical blocks. HFS has to give at least one allocation block to any fork of a file that’s not empty – and remember, Mac files can have two forks, a data fork and a resource fork.
Now here’s the rub: HFS uses 16-bit fields to identify every allocation block on a volume uniquely, so there must be fewer than 65,536 (2^16) blocks on any HFS volume (and, hence, fewer than 65,536 files).
The larger your disk, the larger those 65,000-plus allocation blocks must be. On a 256 MB volume, allocation blocks are 4K each. But on a 4 GB volume, allocation blocks are a whopping 64K each! As a result, if you create a file containing just the letter "a" and save it on a 4 GB HFS disk, that file will contain less than 1 K of information; however, the file consumes 64K of disk space! If you create that same file in SimpleText, guess what? It will consume 128K because SimpleText files have both a data fork and a resource fork! If you add more data to the file, that new information will be added to the allocation block (until there’s so much data that another allocation block is needed), but, otherwise the extra space is just wasted.
The "wasted space" problem is more pronounced if you have a large number of small files – each with a partially filled allocation block – than if you have a small number of large files, where almost every allocation block will be completely filled. Most people store a mix of small and large files on their disks, resulting in a noticeable (but not world-shattering) amount of wasted space. However, the larger the disk, the more space that’s lost. And some drives – particularly those used by programmers, Web authors, and server applications – can have thousands of tiny files.
Macintosh Extended Format addresses the wasted space problem by increasing the number of allocation blocks from 65,536 to over 4.2 billion. This means Extended Format volumes can store far more files than Standard Format volumes, and (in theory) an Extended Format volume can have 512-byte allocation blocks (i.e., a one-to-one relationship with logical blocks) on volumes up to 2 terabytes in size.
Smaller May Not Be Better — However, all is not bliss in the world of 512-byte allocation blocks. Remember that most people have a mix of files, many of which are used differently. Email files tend to grow and have data removed from the middle, word processing documents grow and shrink almost randomly, log files have new data appended to them, and Web browsers create and destroy more files before 9 A.M. than most people do all day. All this creating, appending, and deleting leads to disk fragmentation. With 512-byte allocation blocks, the result is likely to be many tiny file fragments rather than a smaller number of larger chunks. Over time, a large-capacity volume with 512-byte allocation blocks will generally have worse fragmentation – and hence worse performance – than the same volume with larger allocation blocks. That’s why Apple’s default allocation block size for Extended Format volumes over 1 GB is 4K: it’s a compromise between the need for small block sizes and concerns about fragmentation. Similarly, a disk must be at least 32 MB to use the Extended Format; for anything smaller Extended Format doesn’t make much sense over Standard Format.
Even More Features — But wait, there’s more! Macintosh Extended Format also fixes other shortcomings with HFS. Mac users bragged for years that file names can be 31 characters long and contain spaces and other special characters (except a colon), but these days, 31 character file names don’t seem as spiffy. In addition, HFS has always had a Roman-language bias when it comes to sorting and storing files, a fact plainly evident to anyone using, say, a Japanese version of the Mac OS.
Macintosh Extended Format supports file names of up to 255 Unicode characters, which means file names can be longer and behave in a manner appropriate to the language (script) the computer is using. (Unicode has more than 38,000 characters and 25 script systems, including Arabic, Cyrillic, Katakana, and Thai.) Under Mac OS 8.1, Extended Format volumes require the Text Encoding Converter extension to display file names and other information. However, the Mac OS 8.1 Finder still supports only 31 character filenames; we’ll have to wait for future versions of the Finder to be able to enter long file names on Extended Format volumes.
Macintosh Extended Format also makes it easier to create startup drives for non-Mac OS operating systems (think Rhapsody), and has facilities for storing metadata about a file (such as comments, access permissions, and other information that isn’t inherently part of a file’s content).
Extending Your Volumes — Now that you know about the Macintosh Extended Format – how do you work with it? There are two ways you’ll deal with Extended Format volumes: you’ll either encounter someone else’s or create your own.
If someone makes an Extended Format volume accessible on a network via File Sharing or AppleShare, it will behave just like any other Mac disk. However, if you connect an Extended Format disk to your computer (or, more likely, use a Extended Format removable cartridge), you must run Mac OS 8.1 or higher in order to access the Extended Format volume. Otherwise, you’ll see a single text file explaining that you’re trying to access an Extended Format volume but don’t have the appropriate software. (This little trick is accomplished via an HFS wrapper, which essentially embeds an Extended Format volume in an old-style HFS volume.)
Initializing your own Extended Format volumes is easy. You can either use the Erase Disk command on the Mac OS 8.1 Finder’s Special menu or use Drive Setup 1.4 or later (which comes with Mac OS 8.1). In either case, back up your disk, initialize it, and then restore your data.
To make an Extended Format startup disk, you must make a separate bootable Mac OS 8.1 disk (Apple recommends using the Mac OS 8.1 retail CD), then back up your startup volume, initialize it using either the Erase Disk command or Drive Setup 1.4, and then restore your startup volume data. Please note that 68040-based Macs can’t start up from (or store Virtual Memory swap files on) an Extended Format startup volume, although they can access other Extended Format partitions and volumes just fine. Also, don’t use the PowerBook Password Security control panel on an Extended Format startup disk; it won’t work due to changes in Extended Format boot blocks.
Utilities from Alsoft — If creating Extended Format volumes using the Erase Disk command isn’t simple enough – or is too time-consuming because of the necessary backup and restore operations – consider PlusMaker, a $30 utility from Alsoft that converts existing HFS disks as small as 8 MB to Extended Format volumes with 512-byte allocation blocks. PlusMaker’s conversion leaves your data intact – it converts directory structures (while correcting minor directory problems) and then optimizes the data in order to reduce disk fragmentation. Alsoft claims that using 512-byte allocation blocks isn’t significantly slower than using 4K allocation blocks; of course, your results will depend on how you use your disk and what you put on it.
Alsoft also markets PlusMaximizer, which lets you create Extended Format partitions using 512-byte allocation blocks (instead of the default 4K for a 1 GB or larger drive) via the Erase Disk command. Alsoft sells the programs together for $40. Although users report good results with Alsoft’s utilities, I still strongly recommend backing up before converting to Extended Format.
Compatibility Issues — Before using Macintosh Extended Format with a non-Apple disk, check with the company that develops the disk driver software to make sure it’s fully compatible with Mac OS 8.1 and Extended Format volumes. Hard Disk ToolKit 2.5 and Silverlining 5.8.2 both claim to be compatible with Mac OS 8.1 and Extended Format volumes; Silverlining supports Extended Format volumes directly.
In addition, software that interacts with the file system at a low-level – such as automatic compression utilities or disk optimization and repair programs – may need to be updated. Check with the developer of your particular package for details; some additional information is listed below.
Norton Utilities: Symantec has released Norton Utilities 3.5.2 for use with Mac OS 8.1. This release recognizes Extended Format volumes, but will not diagnose, optimize, or repair them. (Previous versions would try to run on Extended Format volumes, possibly causing serious damage.) Symantec has not publicly stated when they plan to update Norton Utilities, but Symantec’s lukewarm stance toward Extended Format volumes was noted at Macworld San Francisco – don’t expect a new release for several months.
Alsoft DiskExpress Pro can’t optimize Standard or Extended Format volumes under Mac OS 8.1. Alsoft has promised an update.
FWB’s CD-ROM ToolKit 3.0.x’s disk cache capabilities have trouble with Extended Format volumes. FWB promises an update; in the meantime, users can disable CD-ROM ToolKit’s disk caches under Mac OS 8.1.
Network Associates PGPDisk 1.0 has been updated to 1.0.1 to be compatible with Extended Format volumes. Registered users should call NAI Customer Care at 408/988-3832 for upgrade information.
If It Ain’t Broke — Should you use Extended Format volumes? The answer, of course, is "it depends." From what I’ve seen and heard, Extended Format volumes don’t offer better performance than Standard Format volumes; furthermore, the lack of high-quality diagnostic utilities for Extended Format volumes makes them less appealing for critical data storage, as do potential incompatibilities with popular software.
However for some, the space savings of Extended Format volumes will prove persuasive – especially if those people already make regular, reliable backups. As was the case with HFS back in 1986, it takes time for a new disk format to be fully supported. Macintosh Extended Format will take a while to catch on, but its importance will grow as drive sizes increase and Rhapsody edges closer to reality.