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Adam Engst No comments

Apple’s New Printers

People looking to purchase low-cost Macintosh printers now have better options than ever before. Today, Apple introduced the StyleWriter, a 360 dpi inkjet printer and the LaserWriter LS, a QuickDraw laser printer. These printers pose a serious challenge to third party vendors of Macintosh printers, and (I hope) will put the ImageWriter on the endangered printer list.

Both printers require System 6.0.7 and come with TrueType fonts on disk. The fonts are nothing spectacular – Times, Helvetica, Courier, and Symbol (the same fonts that come standard with the DeskWriter and the various non-PostScript LaserWriters). If you want more scalable fonts, you can either buy ATM, wait to see if more fonts are released with system 7.0 (probably), or contact Bitstream, the main company currently shipping TrueType fonts. Both printers use a serial connection and do not use AppleTalk.

More specifically, the $599 (probably discounted to under $500 at most places) StyleWriter is Apple’s slightly modified version of Canon’s BJ-10e Bubblejet. I’m not exactly clear on what has changed, but I know it has an appropriately Mac-like design and gather that its innards have been optimized for the Macintosh. The Bubblejet has an optional paper feeder (if you don’t buy the feeder, you must feed each sheet by hand), but the feeder comes standard with the StyleWriter. Given the low list price, this shouldn’t be too much of a hardship for anyone. The feeder can be removed, leaving you with a printer small enough for toting around in a briefcase. The StyleWriter is no speed daemon, printing one-half a page per minute in 360 dpi mode and one page per minute in 180 dpi mode. This is roughly comparable to the ImageWriter in "Faster" and "Best" mode, but about half as fast as the more expensive, AppleTalk DeskWriter, which stands to suffer most from the StyleWriter’s presence. Quality-wise, the StyleWriter is comparable to the DeskWriter, despite its higher resolution. Of course, with inkjet printers, paper type greatly affects print quality, so try different papers before condemning either of these printers.

And what about the ImageWriter? Apple is not abandoning it, but is positioning it as a color printer (you can buy color ribbons for it) and as a printer for carbon forms. Yeah, right, a color printer. HP just introduced the PaintWriter a few weeks ago, which has a slightly higher price than the DeskWriter, a lot less speed, and lower resolution, but it can print in color quite well. The ImageWriter won’t be able to compete with the PaintWriter in the color arena unless Apple does some serious marketing for it and gets developers more interested in it.

The LaserWriter LS represents another effort by Apple to give products confusing names. Speculation in my office is that "LS" stands for "Laser Serial," but I know we will all have fun keeping track of the fact that the LS is different than the SC and the NT and now that HP has introduced the IIIsi even the product lines are getting confused. But I digress. The LS uses the same four page per minute Canon engine used in Apple’s Personal LaserWriter NT and SC. The 250 sheet paper tray is extra, so if you don’t buy it, you will have to use the 50 sheet tray that flops down from the front of the printer (that’s what I do at home with our QMS-410 and it’s no great hardship, though I sometimes have to clean off the desk before there’s room for the tray). The LS uses a serial connection to attach to the Mac, but it is supposed to be as fast as a SCSI connection due to a data compression/decompression scheme used when sending data to the printer. The LS cannot be upgraded to PostScript, whereas Apple’s previous QuickDraw laser printers could be upgraded to PostScript. Apple rep Dick Syszmanski said that few people took advantage of the upgrade, but Apple isn’t sure how important knowing that the upgrade would be possible is to customers. Dick also said that the Personal LaserWriter SC will not be discontinued until Apple sees how the LS fares.

I’m pleased to see these printers. They show Apple’s commitment to inexpensive, useful printers. (It’s not a pretty situation when people spend almost as much for their printers as they do for their Macs.) Times have changed a lot. Three and a half years when we bought a DeskJet and a QuickDraw printer driver for our Mac we were so thrilled to not have a blocky, jamming, noisy ImageWriter that we didn’t care about the six minutes per page printing time in "best" mode. A laser printer was clearly out of our budget after we spent $2000 on a Mac SE, and choices at the time were minimal. The DeskJet works well (though not for us) and I’m looking forward to trying out TrueType on it. I’ll be even more pleased should the day come when all this fuss over printers is unnecessary because everyone will be able to afford a big, crisp computer screen and most information will be transmitted from computer to computer without any paper getting in the way. Should be real soon now. 🙂

Information from:
Tonya Byard — TidBITS Editor
Dave Neff — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

Compression Field Expands

Just after we finish a special issue comparing the major compression programs (thanks, Ken!), the industry burps and spits out another few entrants. The compression market started with Pack-It, then StuffIt, and then StuffIt Deluxe and Compact Pro and DiskDoubler and Diamond, and now up pop the shareware AutoSqueeze, the DoubleUp board from Sigma Designs, the Gold Card from Pinnacle Micro, and SuperDisk! from Alysis Software.

You’ve heard about the main programs and the DoubleUp board already, so I’ll restrict myself to the new stuff. In many ways, AutoSqueeze from Dawson Dean is the most interesting, because it’s a shareware entry and because it’s simple to use. Once you install the AutoSqueeze INIT, to keep a file or a folder (and all the files in it) compressed you add the word "compressed" to the end of the name. Once you’ve done that, AutoSqueeze automatically compresses the file or folder and automatically expands when needed, although since there is no progress dialog, it seems that the Mac has slowed down a lot. There are a few problems with this technique. First, adding a long word like "compressed" to a file name may be obvious, but it’s not particularly easy to do and restricts file names significantly. A user-definable extension in the Control Panel interface would be best. Second, AutoSqueeze doesn’t change the file type, creator, or icon, so there’s no way to tell if a file is compressed without reading the name (as I’m sure many Mac users fail to do when they’re looking for a certain file in icon view). Because of this, it would be easy to copy a compressed file to floppy without expanding it, rendering it useless on the other end if the recipient didn’t use AutoSqueeze. AutoSqueeze’s main problem, though, is that it’s not as fast as DiskDoubler, nor can it compress files as much. Since the shareware price of $20 isn’t that much less than DiskDoubler’s $45 price, I’d recommend DiskDoubler over AutoSqueeze, if only for the excellent support provided by Salient. Otherwise, I am quite impressed with AutoSqueeze – if it had shown up two years ago it would have been an instant hit.

The DoubleUp board from Sigma Designs was the first hardware compression unit, but Pinnacle Micro followed quickly with its Gold Card. The DoubleUp board uses a compression chip from Stac Technology (a major compression force in the PC world and makers of the Stacker, a PC compression card), and the Gold Card uses a chip from Stac’s main competitor, InfoChip Systems, makers of Expanz!, the first PC compression card. Unlike the DoubleUp card, which uses DiskDoubler as an interface to choose which files to compress and expand, the Gold Card completely takes over, using software that compresses and expands all files all the time. Pinnacle Micro claims the card can compress at 600K per second and expand at about 1 MB per second, which is why it opted for complete compression of all files. Nonetheless, I use some programs and files so often that I wouldn’t want any slowdown in loading and quitting. The Gold Card will list for $395, which is more than the $229 DoubleUp, but Pinnacle says that its card is better and thus worth more. That’s a succinct way of explaining the price difference. If you don’t want complete transparency, Aladdin Software plans to bundle the Gold Card with StuffIt Deluxe, and that bundle will not include Pinnacle’s software.

The final entry into the compression battles claims to destroy other programs in benchmark tests. Alysis claims that its SuperDisk! creates slightly smaller files than do StuffIt Deluxe and DiskDoubler and is significantly faster. Compact Pro can supposedly create smaller files, but Alysis claims SuperDisk! is much faster. I haven’t seen SuperDisk! yet (it should be out in a few weeks for a list price of $89), but if it’s as fast as claimed, I’ll be impressed. In its first release, SuperDisk! includes a free decompression utility and will be able to make self-extracting archives with only 5K of overhead, a full 8K less than Compact Pro’s self-extracting archives. When I talked to Alysis, they said that they would probably support other file formats, such as the aging but still popular StuffIt 1.5.1 format, in the next release. Alysis will use a scheme similar to AutoSqueeze’s, but you only have to add ".s" to the end of the file or folder name, and apparently (I haven’t checked this personally), SuperDisk! can compress applications, something AutoSqueeze can’t do. SuperDisk! has an option to provide progress feedback, something which AutoSqueeze needs badly.

And for those of you who like a little rumor to spice up your lives, wait for DiskDoubler 4.0. An extremely reliable but thoroughly anonymous source says that DiskDoubler 4.0 will compress files more than Compact Pro (and thus more than anything currently out there, although SuperDisk! may change that). DiskDoubler 4.0 will work with System 7.0 and will solve some current problems (such as not being able to open a compressed file into a currently active application under MultiFinder) simply by using System 7.0. So many choices and so little time!

Pinnacle Micro — 800/553-7070 — 714/727-3300
Alysis Software — 415/566-2263
Salient — 415/321-5375 — 800/326-0092

Information from:
Alysis rep — Alysis on America Online

Related articles:
MacWEEK — 26-Feb-91, Vol. 5, #8, pg. 1
MacWEEK — 22-Jan-91, Vol. 5, #3, pg. 10
InfoWorld — 25-Feb-91, Vol. 13, #8, pg. 38
PC WEEK — 21-Jan-91, Vol. 8, #3, pg. 28

Adam Engst No comments

Single Purpose Printer

Some people try to make their printers capable of handling every sort of paper size and type, including envelopes. But those envelopes have always been the catch (literally, if you feed them through a finicky laser printer). My answer is simple – use email! OK, so that’s not a solution for everyone in every instance (though it should be).

CoStar has come out with its second special purpose printer to solve this nagging envelope problem. CoStar calls it the AddressWriter, and it joins the LabelWriter in the CoStar lineup. The LabelWriter could print out the sort of labels you need to stick on envelopes and floppy disks. The AddressWriter, on the other hand, can only print on envelopes in a variety of sizes. That’s not entirely true, since CoStar plans to sell an optional $75 label feeder as well, but that’s not the point. The point is that you can buy this thing for $595, plop 100 envelopes in it, and have it address them (with an optional return address, logo, message, and postal bar code, the last of which gives you a 10% discount somehow). That’s pretty cool. Even on my QMS-PS 410 printer, which does a decent job with envelopes (I’ve never had one jam on me), it’s still a pain to move the paper guide, put the envelope in, and make sure it doesn’t go through the normal paper path.

The current AddressWriter is a serial printer, but CoStar plans an AppleTalk version for 1992. The AppleTalk AddressWriter will be about $100 more expensive, and CoStar will offer a simple $150 serial to AppleTalk converter box for people wishing to upgrade. The envelope hopper on the AddressWriter accepts envelopes up to (and a little larger, to work with European sizes) the standard business envelope. The print mechanism has an 8-pin head, but since it makes three passes, it achieves a decent 144 dpi resolution. Not laser quality, by any means, but no one ever looks at an envelope for more than about 12 seconds anyway.

CoStar — 800/426-7827 — 203/661-9700

Information from:
Deborah at CoStar — costar1 on AppleLink

Related articles:
MacUser — Apr-91
Macworld — Apr-91

Adam Engst No comments

Apple 1, Microsoft 0

Apple has won round one of the lawsuit between Apple and Microsoft (and HP, to be technically correct). In a decision last week, Judge Vaughn Walker of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco ruled that Apple did indeed create the portions of the Macintosh interface in question, most notably overlapping windows and icons. Judge Walker denied motions by Microsoft and HP to throw out the case on the grounds that Apple "borrowed" (my quotes, not Apple’s, so keep the lawyers off) from the Xerox Star and/or SmallTalk. For those of you who haven’t been following this case closely, it started in March of 1988 (yup, that long ago, and they’ve just decided that they might go ahead and have a trial) when Apple filed suit against Microsoft for Windows 2.03 and HP for New Wave (an interface that runs on top of Windows). Apple claims that these products violate both an earlier agreement with Microsoft and Apple’s copyrighted audio-visual displays. This is only round one, though, since the decision did not determine whether or not Microsoft and HP infringed on Apple’s copyright. The press release said that they were going to have a "status conference" to determine the schedule for the rest of the case. Sheesh, no wonder it takes so long.

What’s the practical impact of all this? For the moment, nothing. However, it looks good for Apple and bad for Microsoft currently, so let’s assume that Apple will win this suit sometime in the next century. Gather ’round, boys and girls, it’s speculation time! (and remember, my degree is in Classics and Hypertextual Fiction, not Copyright Law)

I haven’t heard what sort of damages Apple wants, or even if that was specified in the original suit. (Remember, this was in 1988, while I was still worrying about the proper form of Greek verbs in the aorist imperative at Cornell.) I don’t believe that Apple has any control over the existing copies of Windows, so there’s no way that Apple could extract royalties from existing users (as some people on Usenet were worrying) or have all copies of Windows destroyed or anything so irritatingly totalitarian. If Apple was that concerned, they could have pushed a hold through the court to prevent any more copies of Windows from being sold in 1988. It’s not inconceivable that Apple could get back royalties from Microsoft and HP, though, which would cost a lot of money even though Windows 2.03 and New Wave weren’t all that popular. That’s the most likely option, since money is the name of the game and licensing fees are a great way to make money without doing anything. Interestingly enough, I saw that AT&T has some sort of patent on a window manager for which it is trying to get licensing fees from a number of companies. No idea of which companies are involved, but that could thoroughly confuse the issue once more. Another unclear issue is the role of Windows 3.0 in all of this. I haven’t used it enough to notice how it works with overlapping windows (I believe you can overlap windows, but only within the parent window). Although the current suit is aimed solely at Windows 2.03, if Apple wins, I suspect that Windows 3.0 and later will be subject to the decision as well.

Overall, I don’t like what Apple is trying to do with this lawsuit. I understand Apple wanting to clear up the problem with the 1985 agreement with Microsoft about Windows 1.x not applying to Windows 2.x, but I’m afraid that Apple wants to take that relatively unimportant contract dispute and use it to claim that Apple alone owns the concept of many of the elements of a standard graphical interface. That’s slimy and does no one any good, other than increase Apple’s ego and coffers. My devious mind came up with one interesting possibility for why Apple won this initial round, though. This issue of being able to copyright elements of an interface must be resolved at some point, but it will require a court case. If the judge had granted Microsoft’s motion (that overlapping windows and icons were derivative works from Xerox), and dismissed the case, the issue would wait longer to resolve itself. So it’s possible (though I’m sure everyone in sight would deny it whether or not it was true) that the judge allowed the case to continue in order to get everything out in the open already.

There are two recent court decisions that are important in light of this case. First, Lotus won a case against Paperback Software, claiming that Paperback had infringed on Lotus’s copyright by using the same command structure. That’s bad. Then there is Ashton-Tate’s case against Fox Software, in which Ashton-Tate claimed that FoxBASE+ violated Ashton-Tate’s copyright by using the same internal programming language (so you could run dBASE programs in FoxBASE+ and vice versa). The judge ruled that Ashton-Tate’s copyrights were invalid because the company implied that dBASE was an original work, whereas the court ruled that it was derived from an earlier database created at Jet Propulsion Laboratory. That’s good. These cases both apply, though it would seem that the Ashton-Tate case would be more applicable, because Apple did not completely invent the concept of a windowing environment with icons. I hope that when the legal dust dies down everyone is free to innovate without fear of the legal daemons.

Information from:
Mark H. Anbinder — [email protected]
John H. Kim — [email protected]
Bryon S. Lape — [email protected]
Loel Larzelere — [email protected]
Bob Geer — [email protected]
Peter Lim — [email protected]
Jeff Sicherman — [email protected]
Lloyd Lim — [email protected]
Arthur Ogawa — [email protected]
Tim Endres — [email protected]
Steven M. List — [email protected]
Christopher Gaeth — [email protected]