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Macworld Expo news continues this week, with all the information we couldn’t fit in last week. (Baby.) We all pitch in for our regular Macworld Superlatives article, and Jeff Carlson looks at the various Palm-related products on display at the show. (Baby.) In the news, Apple announced at $152 million dollar profit, Fog City released LetterRip Pro 3.0.4, and oh, did we mention that Adam and Tonya had a baby, Tristan Mackay Engst?

Geoff Duncan No comments

Apple Records $152 Million Profit

Apple Records $152 Million Profit — Apple announced a net profit of $152 million on $1.7 billion in revenue for its first fiscal quarter of 1999, marking Apple’s fifth consecutive profitable quarter. Although the results include a one-time $29 million gain from selling holdings in ARM Ltd., Apple also sold 519,000 iMacs during the quarter, contributing to a 49 percent increase in unit shipments compared to the same quarter a year ago. Apple also wrapped up the quarter with a scant two days of inventory worth about $25 million, indicating the company continues to hone its newfound manufacturing and distribution efficiency. [GD]

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Geoff Duncan No comments

LetterRip Pro 3.0.4 Update

LetterRip Pro 3.0.4 Update — Fog City Software has released LetterRip Pro 3.0.4, an update to their Internet mailing list server. Version 3.0.4 corrects two minor issues that incorrectly wrapped long message headers and failed to encode dates in non-English MIME digests. The update is free to LetterRip Pro 3 owners, who can download either the full LetterRip 3.0.4 installer or just the server and administration programs. Fog City offers free or discounted upgrades for owners of LetterRip 1.x and 2.x, otherwise, you can purchase LetterRip Pro 3.0.4 from Fog City for $395. [GD]


TidBITS Staff No comments

Macworld Expo SF ’99 Superlatives

Attending years’ worth of Macworld Expos, we’ve learned the simple mantra repeated throughout the show: "What have you seen that’s cool?" Here are some of the products, events, and oddities that deserve mention.

Biggest Buzz Generator — Connectix Virtual Game Station. Built by the company that brought us Virtual PC, this latest emulator allows Sony PlayStation games to run on the Mac. Games figured heavily in Steve Jobs’ keynote address and had a large area to themselves on the Expo floor, so the announcement caused a palpable stir. The word was to buy a copy on the spot if you wanted it, in part because Connectix didn’t have retail units together yet, but also because of persistent rumors Sony was contemplating legal action to stop distribution of the product. I wouldn’t worry much about a lawsuit – if any company does their legal homework regarding emulators, it’s Connectix. Nonetheless, Virtual Game Station sold out at the Expo, even though Connectix tried to have more copies on hand than they thought they could possibly sell during show hours. [MAN]


Nichiest Niche Product — iMacButton. It appears that on the first few thousand iMacs you can’t restart in case of a freeze or crash using the traditional "three-finger salute" of Control-Command-Power. Instead, you must push a recessed button which can be reached only with a paper clip or a pin. To save you the trouble, this $10 item is a pin embedded in a plastic button, like a thumbtack with a spring in it. You just insert the pin into the hole and leave the button on your iMac; now you (or your cat) can restart your iMac at will. [MAN]


Most Nostalgic Demo — Gemulator Pro, from Emulators Inc. If you have an Intel-based machine, this program (together with a bank of ROMs you install) lets you emulate any of several Atari machines as well as a Mac Plus, a Mac SE, a Mac II, or a number of other 68K-based Macs. You switch between emulated machines without restarting or even quitting the program. One moment we were playing Centipede, the next moment we were running Word 4 on a Mac Plus – all inside a PC running Windows NT. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. Don’t joke about running Gemulator Pro using Virtual PC: they’ve heard that one already. [MAN]


Most Unexpected Technology Focus — Not too long ago, talking about 3D acceleration chips suggested you were a high-end multimedia creator or a hard-core gamer. Now that the ATI’s Rage 128 graphics accelerator has been rolled into each new Power Macintosh G3, Macworld attendees suddenly seemed to crave hardware they never knew they’ve never needed. It would be easy to chalk this up to mere marketing, but the benefits of built-in acceleration – from 3D display in games to faster 2D graphics redrawing – have made the Rage chip the hardware to have, beating the performance of the popular Voodoo2 graphics controller for PCs. [JLC]



Best Tchotchke (and Longest-Running Vaporware) — Castlewood’s Orb. The Orb is a removable hard drive that holds 2.2 GB on small, slim, inexpensive single-platter cartridges. Castlewood was at last year’s Expo with a non-working model. This year the company (made up of ex-SyQuest execs and other hard drive industry veterans) was back with a more elaborate non-working model plus an elaborate booth, an elaborate presentation, and some elaborate promises. I exaggerate, though; the truth is, I’m starting to believe the Orb will ship soon, and when it does I might even want one. Meanwhile, they were handing out fake cartridges that play a little fanfare when you press a button – imprinted with a stern warning not to insert them into an Orb drive. With SyQuest kaput and Iomega gorging on its remains, more competition in the removable storage market is a good thing. [MAN]

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Most Creative Ergonomics — A game’s graphics may be the best you’ve seen, but you’re still watching them from a typical office chair. To add a level of immersion, try the Intensor chair. With five built-in speakers, you’ll not only hear the game’s sounds surrounding you, but also feel the vibrations caused by the chair’s subwoofers. If you usually play console devices (such as Nintendo or Sony gaming machines) that connect to a television, you can remove the chair leg assembly to rock and swivel in the chair on the floor. Another surprise is a headphone jack, so you can blast aliens in private without activating the external speakers (and still get some of the chair’s vibrational feedback). [JLC]


Best Beta — This is a tie between Stagecast Software’s Stagecast Creator and Power On’s Action Menus. Stagecast is the successor to Cocoa, a children’s sprite-world creation kit developed at Apple by David Smith and Allen Cypher using Sk8, and later Prograph. With another former Apple notable Larry Tesler, they’ve formed a corporation to port it once more, this time to cross-platform Java, expanding and refining it in the process. I’ve played with the beta and it’s delightful, Java notwithstanding; I anxiously await the final release and hope for its commercial success. Action Menus is Power On’s Mac OS 8.5-compatible replacement for Now Menus; judging from the demo, the latter would be no match for Power On’s upcoming version even if Now Software were still selling it. I need this so badly I break out in a sweat thinking of it. [MAN]



Best Slogan — The people manning Alien Skin Software’s booth usually get attention for the brightly dyed hair colors that match the varied effects produced by their suite of Photoshop plug-ins. But this year, the company’s slogan stood out higher than their multicolored split ends: "Saturate the Industry with Freaks". [JLC]


Best Party — We aspire to report on all aspects of the Expo, including the parties. Usually there’s a clear winner, but this year’s evening scene was a toss-up. The Mac the Knife party, held at a bar called The Stud, was the most party-like, though it failed in the TidBITS party test by being overly crowded, incredibly loud, and somewhat smoky despite California’s anti-smoking law. MetaCreations deserves praise for holding the Kai’s Power Tools 5 launch at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art; honestly, I wasn’t as interested in seeing design doyen Kai Krause, but I did get to see the first floor of SFMOMA for the first time, which was worth the trip. Apple’s party was huge, spanning a large section of Moscone Center with lots of people, vast amounts of decent food, and multiple live bands. However, I think Dantz takes the best party award: it was crowded and loud, but at acceptable levels, featured great food, and a good downstairs area to talk with the people we only see each year at events like this. Even better were the one-off black and white posters Dantz made of famous people drinking, each emblazoned with the party’s motto: Drink Different. [JLC]




Jeff Carlson No comments

Palm Shows More in Hand at Expo

For those who wondering why the Palm Computing booth at Macworld Expo was consistently mobbed, here’s a quick overview of the PalmPilot and the Macintosh platform. (You can also read previous PalmPilot-related articles at the URL below.)


Palm Computing’s handheld organizers, the PalmPilot and the Palm III, enable you to carry important data in a pen-based device that fits in your pocket. You can synchronize that information with your personal computer with the touch of a button, so you can work with it on your desktop machine as well as the Palm device. However, as the popularity of the PalmPilot soared, Palm concentrated on its largest market, Windows-based PCs, leaving the Macintosh Pilot Desktop program stuck at version 1.0 (which also happens to be an ugly Windows port). Now, Palm has begun releasing public betas of its new Macintosh desktop software, built upon the former Claris Organizer, which also opens the program’s architecture to interact with third-party synchronization modules. At long last, Mac users with Palm handhelds will be able to use features Windows users have enjoyed for over two years – plus some Mac-only tools. Re-entering the Macintosh market with a program that promises to rectify past wrongs elevated Palm Computing’s stature in the eyes of Expo attendees.

Of course, Palm Computing was also giving away free Palm III organizers every half hour – plus copies of my book, the Palm III & PalmPilot Visual QuickStart Guide, though deep down I suspect the Palm IIIs were the main draw.

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Building a Better Beta — Although we usually don’t report on beta releases in TidBITS, I’m making an exception with the new Palm Desktop for two reasons: the demand for this long-delayed software has been overwhelming (the first release unexpectedly wiped out Palm’s servers due to high traffic), and several products shown at Macworld Expo promise to expand how Mac owners use their Palm handhelds.

Currently, you can download the second beta release of Palm Desktop 2.1 from Palm Computing’s servers – it’s 8.9 MB. In addition to providing the advanced PIM features of Claris Organizer, Palm Desktop contains a new open conduit architecture that enables developers to write modules which interact with the handheld’s data. The recent build (number 34) fixes many bugs, so anyone using the first beta version should update, keeping in mind this is still pre-release software with known problems. Users are reporting odd handling of repeated events in the Date Book and records being duplicated in the other built-in Palm applications, for example.


Although it’s nice to have my addresses and calendar information in Claris Organizer, the open conduit architecture will provide the most excitement.

Palm Gets Closer to Tricorder Functionality — Since the introduction of the original Pilots, people have drawn parallels between Palm devices and Star Trek’s tricorder, a handheld device capable of analyzing nearly anything a script requires. Imagiworks demonstrated imagiLab, a data-gathering unit that clips onto the bottom of PalmPilots and Palm III devices and enables collection and analysis of data in the field. The Imagiworks booth featured a recycling waterfall where attendees could take water temperature samples. After synchronizing the Palm III, the acquired data is merged into an AppleWorks spreadsheet, where it can be easily graphed, analyzed, or exported.


Expense and Mail — The original Pilot Desktop 1.0 supports the four main built-in Palm applications (Date Book, Address Book, To Do List, and Memo Pad), but doesn’t support Expense and Mail, both of which have been available in the Windows Palm Desktop for some time.

Shana Corporation demonstrated Informed Palm Expense Creator, a conduit and desktop application that grabs expense data from the PalmPilot and flow it into one of several pre-built expense report templates. The Basic version is free, while the Advanced version includes features like form customization and summary reporting. An 11.4 MB installer on the Shana Web site installs both versions; you can activate the Advanced version by ordering it for $24.95.


Actual Software also demonstrated its $30 MultiMail Mac Conduit Pack, which can synchronize email between Eudora (both Pro and Light versions) and Actual Software’s Palm email program MultiMail Pro or the Palm OS’s Mail program.


Go, Type — LandWare was getting plenty of attention for their well designed GoType keyboard. I bought one before attending the Expo and used it and my PalmPilot as a much lighter alternative my PowerBook. The $80 GoType requires no batteries and features a serial connection to dock your PalmPilot or Palm III, setting you up with a miniature laptop. It also includes programmable function keys for accessing the built-in Palm applications, and special ShortCut and Done keys for easier navigation in the Palm OS. The only thing missing is some way to tab between fields and records without using the stylus.

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Glimpse of the Future — My last Palm-related highlight at the Expo was meeting Palm Computing’s Macintosh product manager, Doug Wirnowski, who let me play with a prototype of the upcoming Palm VII organizer. (See "Mac Palm Desktop Beta Arrives with Palm VII News" in TidBITS-458.) The new unit, now in field trials and expected to ship sometime during the third quarter of 1999, is notable for its built-in access to the upcoming wireless subscriber service. Housed in a clear plastic shell, the prototype is roughly the same size and design of the Palm III, although the top extends out about an inch to accommodate the wireless technology. An antenna rests along the right side of the machine and swivels from a joint at the top; when raised, the Applications screen automatically displays the programs belonging to the group.



Instead of accessing the Internet via a Web browser, the Palm VII features a technology that Palm calls "Web clipping". To try this out, I accessed a small application tied into MapQuest’s driving directions service, entering my home and office addresses. The Palm VII connected to, downloaded the results, then disconnected. The only problem I had was achieving a reliable connection – not surprising from the middle of the Expo floor, underground at the Moscone Center. With the exception of the wireless features, the Palm VII shares the same specs as the Palm III, including the same screen, processor, and 2 MB memory capacity.


Adam Engst No comments

Please Welcome Tristan Mackay Engst

A friend of ours at Apple once commented that what he liked the most about TidBITS was that it is so personal. In part, that’s because we’ve grown up over the years. TidBITS started in 1990, when Tonya and I were both 22, and those who have been reading us each week since then have seen us get married, move to Seattle, get an Internet connection, write a few successful books, move to a new home, and cope with a burglary. We’ve met friends—sometimes close friends—through TidBITS, and last year we spent half of our month-long vacation in Australia visiting friends from Perth who we’ve met over the Internet.


Tristan Mackay Engst Arrives

What I’m leading up to is a piece of completely personal news. Tonya and I would like to share with you the birth of our first child, Tristan Mackay Engst <[email protected]>. He was born on Saturday, 09-Jan-99, at the Puget Sound Birth Center in Kirkland, Washington. He weighed 5 pounds 15.5 ounces and was about 18 inches long. And of course, from our totally unbiased viewpoint, he’s a major cutie. You can see some of his early links to the Macintosh world in the pictures on the Web page below.


Tristan’s birth was inextricably linked with the recent Macworld Expo in San Francisco. When I left for the show, Tonya was 37 weeks pregnant with a due date of 28-Jan-99. I took the cell phone with me so Tonya could call at any time, figuring that the chances of needing to fly back to Seattle early were fairly low. Tonya’s pregnancy had been quite easy and average, thanks in large part to her devotion to eating well and exercising throughout, plus a healthy dose of luck and genetics.

The first few days of the Expo went fine, and I had fun telling everyone who asked about Tonya that she was “home, 37 weeks pregnant.” Then, early Friday morning, on the last day of the show, Tonya woke me up with a call. I was a bit groggy from being at the Mac the Knife party and chatting with friends until 2:30 AM, but managed to internalize the possibility that I might be going to the airport that evening instead of to my sister’s for the weekend. Tonya called again that afternoon, and by 9:00 PM (after a brief moment of incredulity with the airline guy who seemed uncertain that I’d want to pay the $35 change fee even after I’d told him my wife was in labor), I was home. Tonya was indeed in labor, and although her contractions prevented either of us from sleeping that night, the extra time proved useful for packing to go to the birth center and cleaning the house up a bit.

By 7:00 AM, it was time to go to the birth center, and when we arrived an hour later, Tonya was 8 centimeters dilated (out of 10 centimeters, if you’re unfamiliar with pregnancy numerology). We popped into the hot tub—the midwives at this birth center don’t use drugs or most other methods of medical intervention, which fortunately weren’t necessary in this, a normal birth—and with the aid of me, a midwife, and a doula (a woman who knows a lot about labor and is there purely to help the laboring woman in any way necessary), Tonya gave birth less than four hours later. We’re not the gushy sorts, and although the birth itself may not be the defining point of our lives, it was pretty neat. We did have a sense of an announcer intoning, “This has been a Biology Moment.”

If you’re interested in birth centers, midwifery, or want to see pictures of the room we were in (Room 2), check out the Web site below. We highly recommend the birth center experience.


Learning to Cope

We’d done a vast amount of research into various aspects of pregnancy and giving birth, especially since the midwives’ approach was to provide us with the latest obstetric research whenever we had a decision to make. Still, when Tristan came almost three weeks early, we were a bit unprepared. We’re planners, and we’d been counting on a few more weeks to finish shopping, have the baby shower (Tristan got to attend, as it turned out), rearrange the bedroom for the crib, get Geoff and Jeff handling TidBITS, and put other projects on hold for a while. Instead, we’ve been trying to stay afloat, ignoring everything that’s unnecessary, and sleeping whenever possible. Even still, it wouldn’t have been possible without Geoff and Jeff taking over TidBITS and the lifesaving efforts of several sets of friends who brought us items of clothing and other necessary baby paraphernalia.

The lesson we’ve learned is that having a baby is in many ways a public act. By doing so, we’re contributing to society, to the gene pool, perhaps even to our shared culture. The child might grow up to be an author, plumber, sculptor, leader, carpenter, or teacher. He might date your daughter, deliver your own child, cure the common cold, or fix your sink. He’s one of us now.

The main thing we want to pass on to our son is something my great-aunt Irene Gutchess once told me when I was about 11. She asked me, like many adults do, what I wanted to be when I grew up. Being an honest child, I replied that I didn’t know, and was relieved when she said that it didn’t matter what I did as long as whatever it was made the world a better place.

Appropriate Technology

Although Tonya and I are pretty high-tech people, what with all the Macs in the house and the dedicated Internet connection, we’re also cognizant of when technology is and is not appropriate. We have no plans to introduce Tristan to computers before he shows interest, and we’re especially curious to see how he views the Internet, since for us it’s simply a fact of life that’s always accessible from any computer in the house.

The Internet may be a bit different for Tristan than for other children his age, though, since I set up an email address for him upon coming home, and I’ve subscribed him not only to all four family mailing lists we run, but also to a special Tristan Updates list we set up for relatives and friends who want to hear what’s happening on a roughly daily basis. When he’s old enough to read and understand these messages, they’ll enable him to get a sense of what his extended family is like, not to mention our perceptions of his growth and development. I know I’ve become more curious about my own childhood as I’ve grown up and as Tonya and I started talking about having a child; I think Tristan will find the messages fascinating at some point in time.

Needless to say, since we write in TidBITS about things that interest us, it’s likely that we’ll be covering more educational and children’s software in the coming years. Until this point, it’s been hard to evaluate, but with an in-house child tester, it could be a lot of fun.

Our Request for Tristan

We seldom ask for anything from readers, but we’d like to make an exception, since we have such an incredible opportunity here. The combined knowledge and life experience of the oodles of people who read TidBITS is a staggering resource, and we ask that you share some of it with us and Tristan. We’d like if you could at some point send an email message to <[email protected]> giving your thoughts about one of the following:

  • What sort of world do you live in today? How do you view other people, communities, world events? What is your life like? What do you think of our collective future? The world I was born into in 1967 was much different from the world in which I learned to live over the following 31 years. I’d like Tristan to get a sense of what the late 1990s were like around the globe.
  • What do you believe are the most important lessons you’ve learned? What knowledge might have made a difference if you’d learned it earlier in your life? Perhaps it’s just me, but in the last few years, I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about how I live, which of my traits I like and dislike, how the world works, and so on. From those musings, I periodically attempt to distill the most important points. If you do anything similar, I think those thoughts could be valuable to Tristan as well.
  • What do you think of Tonya and me—what sort of people are we? Has our work made the world a better place in some small way? Tristan will never truly know who we are now, and this might help him understand what we were like before he came into our lives. We only begin to know our parents as adults once we’re adults ourselves, but by then our parents have been through another 15 to 20 years of life and changes.

People often debate the effect of the Internet on community, but community is only what we make it. Tonya and I have long been supporters of the idea of the Internet community, and we’ve tried to contribute over the years. By sharing your knowledge and life experiences with Tristan, you can help him understand what makes up the Internet community and at the same time welcome him into it. Please note we may read messages sent to Tristan at this point in time, but we will not delete anything other than any spam that appears.

Finally, on a practical note, we’re pretty much overwhelmed with learning how to live with a small one in the house. Although we are reading email and enjoy hearing from people, we may not be able to reply until life settles down a bit (and we get more sleep). Thanks in advance for all your support and kind words—they do make a difference.