Think you can hack it? If so, check out Adam’s article on the results of the annual Hack Contest at MacHack and how these software zealots continue to push the boundaries of what Macs can do. Also this week, Adam starts a two-part article on what’s new in the recent Eudora 4.2 update. In the news, we note Power On Software’s acquisition of Now Up-to-Date and Now Contact, and the releases of updates to graphics utilities Snapz Pro and PhotoGIF.
Power On Nabs Now PIMs and Eudora Planner
Power On Nabs Now PIMs and Eudora Planner — In a continuing quest to resurrect Now Software’s suite of software, Power On Software announced today that they have licensed Now Contact and Now Up-to-Date from Qualcomm, plus acquired the rights to Eudora Planner. Support for the Now products, still in use by thousands of Mac users, had all but disappeared, and the Mac version of Eudora Planner has remained mired in beta status. Power On promises immediate updates to both Now products for compatibility with current versions of the Mac OS, though expected release dates were not revealed. [JLC]
Macworld NY 1999 Netter’s Dinner
Macworld NY 1999 Netter’s Dinner — Details are sketchy, but a Netter’s Dinner will be happening again this year at Macworld in New York on 21-Jul-99. Check the page below for details – pre-registration is strongly encouraged. [ACE]
Snapz Pro 2 Adds TIFF, QuickTime Movie Support
Snapz Pro 2 Adds TIFF, QuickTime Movie Support — Ambrosia Software has released Snapz Pro 2, a major upgrade to the company’s shareware screen capture utility (for a review, see "Say Cheese! Snapz Pro" in TidBITS-372). Previously, Snapz Pro could save screenshots in GIF, JPEG, and PICT formats; Snapz Pro 2 adds support for TIFF and PNG formats and can create QuickTime movies from screen actions. TIFF and PNG require that you install still image support for QuickTime 4 – you can perform a custom installation to get it or let Snapz Pro ask QuickTime to download the appropriate files. Snapz Pro 2 can save images to the clipboard or to a file anywhere on your hard disk, or you can send the screenshot directly to your printer. Snapz Pro 2 costs $40; upgrades from previous versions are $20. You can try Snapz Pro 2 for free for 30 days; it’s a 1 MB download. [ACE]
PhotoGIF 3.5 Improves Color Processing
PhotoGIF 3.5 Improves Color Processing — BoxTop Software has updated PhotoGIF to version 3.5, improving the GIF-creation utility’s core color reduction algorithms and revamping its PhotoGIF Filter component. (See "Crunch GIFs Quickly with PhotoGIF" in TidBITS-479.) The update also features a rewritten manual and tighter integration between its components. PhotoGIF 3.5 is a 1.3 MB download and is free for users of PhotoGIF 3.0 and later; otherwise the utility costs $70. [JLC]
Eudora Pro 4.2 Continues to Deliver, Part 1
Terminology surrounding email programs is rife with postal allusions, although many people don’t realize that Eudora the email program is named in honor of American writer Eudora Welty, specifically because of her short story "Why I Live at the P.O." I hear quite a bit about postal service, since my father is a rural mail carrier in upstate New York, and it occurred to me that Eudora Pro has a bit in common with the United States Postal Service: both handle vast quantities of mail, emphasize efficiency over appearance, and do the job day in and day out.
Matt Neuburg wrote about Eudora Pro 4.0 in TidBITS-424; with its just-released Eudora Pro 4.2, Qualcomm continues to deliver with Eudora, adding more significant features than the small version number increase from 4.0.2 would indicate. Even better, the upgrade is free for users of Eudora Pro 4.0; Qualcomm has posted a free updater for the English version on their Web site. You can update only a copy of Eudora Pro 4.0.x – the updater won’t work on earlier versions of Eudora Pro or on the public betas. New copies of Eudora Pro 4.2 should be available within a few weeks; until then, only existing Eudora Pro 4.0 users can take advantage of the new features.
After releasing a free 4.2 updater recently, Qualcomm discovered a crashing bug and quickly released another free updater that takes either Eudora Pro 4.0.x or an already-updated Eudora Pro 4.2 to 4.2.1. If you updated to 4.2 but not 4.2.1, we recommend you pick up the 4.2.1 updater.
Please keep in mind that I’m in no way unbiased with regard to Eudora. I’ve probably logged more time in Eudora than in any other program; I’ve written a book about Eudora (Eudora for Windows and Macintosh: Visual QuickStart Guide, from Peachpit Press) and am in the process of updating it for Eudora Pro 4.2. I’ve used every private alpha and beta release of the last few versions, and I have over 400 MB of archived mail that I access within Eudora. In short, Eudora is totally integral to the way I use my Mac.
For space reasons, this article covers two of Eudora Pro 4.2’s top new features: a welcome redesign of Eudora’s search capability and in-line spell-checking, a surprise must-have tool. Next week I’ll discuss other new capabilities, such as multiple-pane message displays, support for Apple’s speech facilities, and a slew of tweaky ways to improve your everyday Eudora use.
Search, and Ye Shall Find — The most embarrassing feature in previous versions of Eudora was its search capability. Although undeniably fast, it lacked both a comprehensible interface and a coherent list of results. Forget everything you knew or believed about the old method, since Eudora Pro 4.2 offers a top-notch search feature. Eudora still distinguishes between Search, which searches across messages, and Find, which finds text within the current message or mailbox window. Find also works in most other Eudora windows, including the Address Book and Filters window, where I use it frequently.
The new Search window in Eudora Pro 4.2 is divided into two panes. In the upper pane, you define search criteria, using a pair of menus and a text entry field. The first menu lets you choose what or where to search, including: Anywhere, Headers, Body, Attachment Name(s), Summary, Status, Priority, Attachment Count, Label, Date, Size (K), Age, Personality, To, From, Subject, Cc, Bcc, and Any Recipient. The second menu defines the scope of the search, providing the following options: contains, contains word, does not contain, is, is not, starts with, ends with, and matches regexp. This last item means "matches a regular expression," which lets you search for patterns of text. A More button in the upper pane adds additional sets of menus (up to 16) to further refine your search. Once you define multiple search lines, you have the option of requiring matches to hit all of your search criteria or any of them.
The lower pane of the Search window offers two tabs, Mailboxes and Results. In the Mailboxes tab, you select which mailboxes you want to search, and once the search has started, Eudora automatically switches to the Results tab to display the found items.
Searching is easy – choose the appropriate search criteria from the menus, enter your search terms, select the mailboxes you want to search, and click Search. Searching is extremely fast, but true to form, Eudora offers a number of tricks to make the process even faster.
If you’re reading mail in a mailbox when you bring up the Search window, Eudora automatically selects that mailbox in the Mailboxes pane.
In the Miscellaneous settings panel, you can choose whether Find or Search should be Command-F; the other becomes Command-Option-F. I do more searches than finds, so I prefer setting Search to Command-F.
If you hold down Shift when choosing either Find or Search from the hierarchical Find menu in the Special menu, Eudora automatically enters the selected text in the search terms field. One minor bug that should be fixed soon: the keyboard shortcuts Command-Shift-F and Command-Shift-Option-F are currently identical and work only with the command you’ve mapped to Command-F.
The Results tab of the Search window is a joy to use for long-time Eudora users. Search results behave much like a mailbox, complete with sortable columns (including one for Mailbox, so you can see where items were found), support for Eudora’s famed Option-click feature which selects similar items, and even Eudora’s new preview pane (more on that next week). You can work with results in a Search window exactly like you’d work with messages in any other mailbox window. You can even narrow a search by clicking a "Search results" checkbox that appears in the upper pane after completing a search; when it’s checked, the next search searches only the contents of the Search window. Search windows are also regular windows, so you can open several and perform different searches in each.
One little-known feature is that you can save Search windows with Save As; afterwards they appear in the hierarchical Find menu. Qualcomm chose to hide this feature for the moment because you can’t delete or rename saved searches from within Eudora yet. If you look in your Eudora Folder after saving a search, though, you’ll see a Search Folder containing files for each saved search that you can delete or rename. Perhaps this foreshadows a future feature that would let you maintain constantly updating search windows as a way of organizing messages outside of your normal mailbox and folder structure. For instance, I could have a "Mac Java Search" window that collected all messages talking about Java on the Mac, no matter where I might have filed them.
The main capability that Eudora’s new search lacks is support for the Mac OS’s new Find By Content capabilities, which is the killer feature in CTM Development’s PowerMail. Although Eudora provides more than enough control to find anything you can identify, if you just can’t think of the appropriate search terms, you’re out of luck, whereas an indexed Find By Content search could find messages about the concepts you describe and give an indication how relevant the match might be. I’m sure Eudora will support Find By Content searching eventually; I suspect Qualcomm wanted to leave something to do for 5.0.
Another indication of why this is 4.2 and not 5.0 is that there are essentially no changes to Eudora’s filter interface or directory services interface. Filters in particular would benefit from the capabilities enjoyed by the new Search function, and it might make sense to build directory services into either the Search window or the Address Book window, or even both.
Inline Spelling Skates — Another killer feature added to Eudora Pro 4.2 is an inline spelling checker, which underlines misspelled words in a fashion similar to that seen in Microsoft Word. Eudora has long supported the Word Services suite of Apple events, and it shipped with the Spellswell spelling checker from Working Software. But, to be blunt, running a traditional batch spell check on every piece of email you send is way too much work. Some people have avoided the issue entirely by relying on a system-wide spelling checker like Casady & Greene’s just-updated SpellCatcher or Newer Technology’s free SpellTools, but they help primarily with text you type, as opposed to text you may be editing. Since I know how to spell almost every word I use, and I type fairly accurately, I’ve never worried much about the few spelling mistakes that creep into my email. Now, however, I’m utterly addicted to Eudora’s inline spelling checker.
Remember that I moderate TidBITS Talk, which involves redirecting messages to the list. Whenever I redirect a message, Eudora promptly spell checks it, marking the misspelled words in red with underline style (yes, you can change the color and style if you like – details next week). All I have to do is Control-click offending words, choose the correct words from the contextual menu, and the message is spelled correctly. Being the retentive editor-type that I am, I spell-check (and do basic editing on) every message that goes to TidBITS Talk.
You can edit Eudora’s User Dictionary and User Anti-Dictionary (which contains properly spelled words you want marked as wrong, for whatever reason) with any text editor since they’re just text files. In fact, you can even add any text file containing words, one per line, to the Spelling Dictionaries folder located in Eudora Pro 4.2’s Eudora Stuff folder, and Eudora will recognize it as a user dictionary.
Looking at Converting? As I noted above, Eudora Pro 4.2 is available only as an 3.9 MB updater right now. The full commercial product should be available for $39 shortly, at which point we’ll look at some of the issues surrounding the decision to switch from a previous version of Eudora or another email client. For now, though, I strongly encourage Eudora Pro 4.0 users to take advantage of the free updater because the new features are well worth the minimal effort. And tune in next week for more on Eudora Pro 4.2’s new features.
The MacHack Hack Contest 1999
Most often, the primary news items that appear in the press after MacHack are the results of the Hack Contest, run by the MacHax Group at MacHack every year. The reason is simple – the results of the Hack Contest give the world a glimpse into the creativity of the Macintosh programmers when unfettered by reality, utility, or stability. Hacks generally aren’t stable, useful, or even usable – they’re just impressive feats of technical prowess. In fact, if a hack could be construed as having some utility while being demoed at the Hack Contest, someone in the audience will derisively yell, "Useful!" And if the programmer dips too far into promotion, the audience may reply with jeers of "Marketing!"
Since I first attended MacHack this year (see "MacHack: The Ultimate Macintosh Event" last week in TidBITS-487), I can’t compare this year’s Hack Contest to previous ones, but it was certainly a unique experience for me. The producers of the Hack Contest queued up a vast number of hilarious QuickTime movie clips to fill bits of time in between demonstrations, while contestants feverishly loaded new hacks onto the computers hooked to the projection systems. Also keeping the audience alert and happy were goodies thrown from the stage: the basic rule was to stay attentive or risk getting whacked upside the head by candy, a software package, a stuffed iMac, or one of the many basketball-sized inflatable plastic balls from Netscape that bounced around the entire conference.
Top Five Hacks — This year’s top five hacks had little in common, although there was no doubt which was going to win: Lisa Lippincott’s Unfinder, which provides an Undo command in the Finder for non-destructive actions such as moving files, was a shoo-in for first place. Lisa had been one of the first to demo, and as she finished her introduction, moved a few files, and chose Undo from the Finder’s Edit menu, the crowd gave her a full-bore standing ovation (after a few catcalls of "Useful!"). I hope Lisa’s hack shames Apple into adding the feature to a future version of the Mac OS. It wouldn’t be the first time a hack contest entry led to improvements in the Mac OS.
The prize for the best hack is the coveted Victor A-Trap, a large rat trap whose name has been modified to be a perfect pun. First, it’s made by the Victor Corporation and goes to the winner. Second, it’s named "A-Trap" (the R and T in RAT are excised with an X-Acto knife) after the initial character of the hex values for trap addresses used by programmers to patch the Mac OS. The contest organizers also get a kick out of coercing the winners into prominently displaying a large rat trap for friends and coworkers to see. For me at least, it also seemed a slight nod to the concept of building a better mousetrap.
Eric Traut’s Out of Context Menus application took second place by providing a set of contextual menu items that aren’t normally provided for Finder windows, including Gaussian Blur, Compress, Duplicate, and Slide (all of which visually modified the contents of the window). A more involved command, New Game, required the creation of Left Paddle and Right Paddle folders in the window first, after which choosing that command caused the folders to play a game of Pong. Eventually something caused a problem, so Eric chose Restart from the contextual menu, seemingly restarting the Mac OS within only that window.
Ed Wynne’s DesktopDoubler came in third place. DesktopDoubler essentially fooled a PowerBook G3 into thinking it had a second screen attached, but went one step further than most virtual screen utilities by fooling the Mac OS into thinking a second monitor was attached instead of virtually enlarging the existing monitor or faking a larger desktop. As a result, the Monitors & Sound control panel saw the second screen, so you could arrange it however you wanted. DesktopDoubler also put a menu bar and certain desktop items like the Trash on the secondary screen. Movement between the two screens was accomplished by moving the mouse pointer between them.
Fourth place went to Jorg Brown and Ned Holbrook for MacJive, a politically incorrect extension that caused all text in every application on the Mac to be translated into fake ghetto-speak. A variety of these translations exist as CGIs through which you can run Web pages, but seeing the entire Macintosh interface so translated increased the effect. For MacJive, Jorg and Ned won a large frozen turkey, in part, I suspect, just to see how they’d attempt to get it home.
Filling out the top five was Paul Baxter’s PatchMaker, a programmer’s tool that took care of the basic support code necessary to create each of 1,258 68K and PowerPC patches, enabling the programmer to concentrate on the hack itself. Like Unfinder, PatchMaker garnered some cries of "Useful!" from the audience, and at least one person was considering writing next year’s hack using PatchMaker to get started.
More Hacks — Although the above five hacks took home top honors, other hacks deserve public recognition (and I’ll probably make some mistakes here, due to taking notes in the wee hours).
In a successful attempt to avoid "Useful!" cries, Leonard Rosenthol and Miro Jurisic wrote Mactive Desktop, which used Microsoft Internet Explorer, Netscape Communicator, or iCab to put live Web pages on the Macintosh desktop, much like the Windows Active Desktop. Also truly useless was Bill Hubauer’s "CD-ROM Drive You Crazy" which caused the CD-ROM trays on Macs elsewhere on the network to move in and out. Jesse Donaldson and Katherine Smith entered ReaderMouse, which used speech synthesis to read the word under the mouse pointer, reportedly performing OCR on the pixels on the screen.
Richard Ford, previously Apple’s Open Transport product manager, showed HUF (Hotline User Frustrator), a hack that made use of the PacketShaper, a neat device made by Packeteer, the company where Richard now works. Responding to complaints that Hotline users were flooding MacHack’s 256 Kbps Internet connection with downloads, Richard set the PacketShaper to restrict Hotline users to 300 baud, then showed real-time graphs of how his hack had improved network throughput for other protocols. Another popular Internet hack, Geo Killer from Mark Lilback, automatically closed those annoying pop-up windows that appear when visiting Web sites hosted by GeoCities; it could be configured to close pop-up windows from any site.
Apple DTS’s Andy Bachorski continued a theme from last year, when he wrote a version of BrickOut in MacsBug. This year, he used BBEdit to write ASCII Invaders, a version of Space Invaders. He created the screen display by making a special font, and handled the animation entirely through text manipulations in BBEdit.
Keynote speaker Andy Ihnatko also stayed with the kind of hacking he had shown in his keynote. Using an ADB/IO device and some custom AppleScript scripts, Andy wrote Skinner Cubicle (a takeoff on the Skinner box used in behavioral research). The basic idea was that sometimes you need to provide positive or negative feedback to cubicle dwellers; one script caused a motorized candy machine to dispense a piece of candy, and another fired a toy dart gun.
Finally, several people showed Y2K-related hacks, the most amusing of which prevented the Mac’s clock from ever ticking over to midnight on January 1st. Instead, every time it reached 11:59:59, it reset to 11:59:00. Good thing we won’t be needing that one.
Yoot Hacks — The student hacks ranged tremendously in sophistication, which wasn’t surprising, given that the youngest entrant was seven year-old Rachel Green while several other contestants were in their last year of eligibility for yoot status, as defined by graduation from college. Rachel’s hack used AppleScript to make two icons chase each other around the screen. On the other end of the spectrum was Avi Drissman’s Balloon Preview, which used QuickTime to preview images and movies in help balloons that popped up when he pointed at the files. Ned Holbrook’s CD Namer was also quite sophisticated; when you inserted an audio CD, CD Namer automatically figured out which CD it was, looked it up in an Internet database, and filled in the disc and track titles.
Other yoot hacks were quite impressive, including Lucius Kwok’s Prose Posse, which rewrote text files based on word proximities, and a three-person yoot hack called Altered States, which could apply a number of garish effects (especially garish at 2:30 AM) to windows. Ben Furnas’s The Creep hack implemented a simple dialog box-based network chat client using program linking.
One yoot hack made its way into MacHack legend. Matt Linden’s AppleScript-based "Is it a folder?" hack was supposed to identify either files or folders selected in the Finder. If you pointed at a folder, it said out loud "This is a folder." and displayed a dialog box containing the same words. Unfortunately for Matt, a bug caused it to display the same dialog box when he clicked a file, though the spoken words correctly stated that "This is not a folder." Unable to believe his code wasn’t working, Matt tried and tried to get his hack to work, pointing at numerous different files. The sleep-deprived audience found this hilarious, and badges labeled "I am not a folder" appeared the next day, and Steve Kiene of MindVision made a t-shirt that proclaimed, "I am a folder and I’ve got the documents to prove it!"
AltiVec Hacks — A perk of attending MacHack was that Apple sent a few prototype G4-based Power Macs for the developers to hack. The PowerPC G4 is essentially a souped-up G3 with the AltiVec vector processor, an addition to the chip that radically speeds up certain types of code. Most of the AltiVec hacks, including AltiVec expert Doug Clarke’s "42," showed code running both normally and with the AltiVec processing turned on. In one instance, using the AltiVec instructions ran 188 times faster, although Doug said speed increases of 2 to 4 times were more likely with minimal work.
Other Platforms — A couple of hacks ran on top of Mac OS X Server, including one called Blue Box Spy, which let you see what was happening in the Blue Box (where the Mac OS was running) even when the Blue Box was hidden. Andrew Stone also entered a hack that provided a graphical interface to a chat-based poker game. The most serious Mac OS X hack was entered by Apple engineers who wrote a Mac OS X device driver to enable a Mac running Mac OS X Server to use a Windows Theater TV tuner they’d just bought at CompUSA. And for those who want to get used to the NeXT interface early, Jonathan "Wolf" Rentzch wrote Carbonized Menus, which hid the normal Mac OS menu bar and replaced it with NeXT-style floating menus.
A few Palm OS hacks were also shown, including an impressive one from 3Com/Palm’s Steve Lemke and Jesse Donaldson that not only created a remote control that controlled a PowerBook’s CD-ROM drive via infrared, but also used a serial connection to display on the Palm’s screen a DVD movie playing on a PowerBook. Steve and Jesse awarded the best Palm hack to Andrew Downs, for his P1 Preview, which simulated the Finder on the Palm.
Getting the Hacks — You can buy a CD containing all the hacks for $20 via the MindVision online store at the URL below (profits go toward next year’s conference). The MacHack Web site also lists the hacks and includes the top five for download.