We wrap up our Macworld Expo NY coverage with an issue full of show superlatives. Read on for bits about the most interesting hardware, the coolest software, and the most disgusting events. In the news, we cover Napster’s legal woes, and the releases of Retrospect and Retrospect Express 4.3, Now Up-to-Date & Contact 3.9.2, and useful Palm and Handspring updates. Finally, if you think you know the Mac OS, try this week’s diabolical quiz.
Judges Press Napster’s Buttons — Late Wednesday, 26-Jul-00, Judge Marylin Hall Patel issued a preliminary injunction barring the popular and controversial online music service Napster from distributing copyrighted music. However, two judges in the Ninth Circuit Count of Appeals on 28-Jul-00 issued a temporary stay that enables the service to keep operating. The stay should remain in effect until at least early September, when both parties will have filed their arguments regarding the preliminary injunction. Napster is being sued by the Recording Industry Association of America and A&M Records, which claim the company promotes piracy and copyright infringement and that the Web site has cost the recording industry over $300 million in lost sales. Napster claims it enables legitimate swapping of recorded music by acting as a clearinghouse of links to machines where MP3-encoded songs can be downloaded. Nonetheless, Judge Patel wasn’t impressed, and barred Napster "from causing, assisting, facilitating, copying, or otherwise distributing all copyrighted songs or musical compositions." Napster’s service has been the subject of considerable media attention, including lawsuits from high-profile recording artists and testimony before the U.S. Congress. Nonetheless, Napster is widely seen as being targeted by the recording industry because it’s one of the most visible (and easily sued) facilitator of online music swapping, while other similar services such as Gnutella and The Free Network Project are more nebulous and difficult or impossible to trace. [GD]
Now Up-to-Date & Contact 3.9.2 Now Available — Power On Software has released a free update to Now Up-to-Date & Contact 3.9.2. The update changes the behavior of how Now Up-to-Date & Contact synchronize with Palm OS handhelds, fixes some bugs related to synchronizing, and fixes other bugs in the QuickContact and QuickDay control panels that provide fast access to your contact list and calendar even if the main programs aren’t running. The QuickDay and QuickContact fixes are minor (it’s mainly nice to be able to hold down the Option key to dismiss all menu bar reminders in QuickDay again), but they’re the only reason users of Now Up-to-Date & Contact 3.8 who don’t use Palm devices might want to upgrade, since the previous changes rolled into 3.9 were related solely to Palm synchronization. The updater is a 1.3 MB download. [ACE]
Retrospect and Retrospect Express 4.3 Released — Dantz Development has released version 4.3 of both their Retrospect and Retrospect Express backup programs, adding support for numerous USB and FireWire storage devices and erasing the 2 GB limit on file backup sets when used with Mac OS 9 or later on HFS Plus-formatted hard disks. In addition, Retrospect Express gains the capability to store multiple incremental backups to a single file on a secondary hard disk, something previously available only in the more-expensive Retrospect. (Keep in mind that relying on single backup on an external hard disk isn’t an ideal backup strategy.) Upgrades for Retrospect users are available as a 14 MB free download (the Retrospect Client update is included); upgrades for Retrospect Express users cost $10 for a downloadable version or $20 for a CD-ROM with Mac OS 9.0.4 that can boot all current Macs. Both versions require a Mac running System 7 or later with at least 16 MB of RAM. [ACE]
More Palm & Handspring DRAM Updates — Palm, Inc. and Handspring, Inc. have released updates to the Palm OS that fix a problem caused by faulty DRAM chips in some Palm Vx, IIIc, IIIxe, and Handspring Visor Deluxe handhelds (see "Tests & Fixes for Defective Palm DRAM" in TidBITS-537). The patch released by Palm now operates on Palm IIIxe devices; previously, a fix was available only for the Vx and IIIc models. You’ll need the serial number from the back of your device in order to download a testing application and (if your device is affected) the patch. A similar solution exists for owners of the IBM-branded WorkPad c3.
Handspring’s Updater V1.0.0 not only provides a solution to the DRAM problem, but also corrects bugs when launching the Calculator application and using a serial cradle when a Springboard modem is installed. Handspring recommends that all Visor and Visor Deluxe owners apply the upgrade. [JLC]
Poll Results: Mac Attack! Last week’s poll asked which of Apple’s just-announced Macs you’d buy if you were going to buy one today, and the results seem to reflect what we’ve already knew – TidBITS readers are a high-end bunch. The four iMac models combined for a mere 15 percent of the nearly 1,000 votes, whereas the two G4 Cube models garnered 26 percent of the votes and the three Power Mac G4 models led the way with 49 percent of the votes. The G4 Cube’s strong showing fits with some of the TidBITS Talk discussions about the stylish Mac’s target audience, and I also wasn’t surprised to see that within the Power Mac G4 models, the 450 MHz and 500 MHz multiprocessor models each received 21 percent of the votes compared to a measly 7 percent for the 400 MHz single processor unit. What’s a couple of hundred dollars for an additional processor that will be especially helpful with Mac OS X’s symmetric multiprocessing capabilities? [ACE]
Poll Preview: Finder’s Clickers — Polls are easy – you can just register your opinion and be on your way. No one’s getting off that easy with this week’s quiz, which requires you to think a bit. Here’s the question:
Starting from the desktop with no open windows and using only actions initiated with the mouse, what is the minimum number of clicks needed to both view the contents of the Startup Items folder and make an alias of it on the desktop? (This requires a version of the Mac OS released since late 1998.)
As always, for those people who take the quiz, the results page will explain just how you can come by the correct answer, and I’ll bet that most people will learn something in the process. Give the quiz your best shot on our home page! [ACE]
Since Macworld Expo Boston 1992, we’ve shared our thoughts on the most notable and noteworthy products, companies, booths, events, or just about anything else, from nearly every Macworld Expo.
Just as with last year’s Macworld New York, Apple nearly stole the show with new hardware announcements during Steve Jobs’s keynote address. We were pleased to discover a number of other pieces of hardware worth mentioning, too.
Best Thing to Stick to the Wall — If you’re one of those people who brainstorms everything on a whiteboard, you must check out Virtual Ink’s Mimio, a $500 whiteboard capture device. Unlike Smart Technologies’ Smart Board (which we noted at the Jan-97 Macworld Expo), the Mimio is a meter long bar that attaches to the edge of any normal whiteboard with suction cups, and connects via USB to a Mac or PC. Standard dry-erase markers fit into special pen holders, and the system uses a combination of ultrasound and infrared to translate pen or eraser strokes on the whiteboard to the virtual whiteboard in Mimio’s software. The software also lets you record an entire whiteboard presentation for later playback, and remap the pen colors to match hues other than the standard red, green, blue, and black (it comes with those four holders and you can buy more). Still lacking in the Macintosh version is the capability to transmit whiteboard presentations live over the Internet. [ACE]
A Clear Case for New Speakers — Except for people who are serious about gaming or MP3s, most of us either don’t much think about computer speakers, or have some random set of "multimedia" speakers that are better than a computer’s built-in speakers, but don’t set the ears to tingling. Harman Kardon is changing that, first with the crystal clear iSub subwoofer they introduced at Macworld Expo in San Francisco in January, and now with the equally transparent SoundSticks speakers they were selling in a $200 bundle with the iSub. Plus, Apple tapped Harman Kardon for the round speakers included with Apple’s slick new Power Mac G4 Cube. [ACE]
First and Goal for USB Servers — We swear by the little devices that can restart crashed Mac servers automatically – Sophisticated Circuit’s PowerKey Pro and Rebound, Neuron Data Systems’ MacCoach, and Kernel Productions’ Lazarus (see "The Battle of the Bouncers" beginning in TidBITS-439 for comparisons). But all of those rely on ADB to communicate with the Mac, so they don’t work with modern USB-only Macs. Worse, USB itself is usually taken out in a crash, preventing Command-Control-Power from restarting the machine. Luckily, Sophisticated Circuits has just released Kickoff, which toggles power to the Mac whenever the Mac stops responding to Kickoff’s periodic tickles over USB. The football-shaped translucent graphite Kickoff costs $179 – more than the ADB-only Rebound and equivalent to the PowerKey Pro – thanks to needing a separate power supply. [ACE]
Best Replacement for 3D Glasses — 3D Scan takes the prize for the coolest scanner add-on with their $300 Lightshow, a hood that fits over most scanners and enables you to scan three dimensional objects. The hood is almost entirely mirrored inside and has special lights that match the color spectrum of most scanners (contact 3D Scan for a list of incompatible scanners). The resulting scans start off being two-dimensional, although the addition of a program called Canoma lets you perform some 3D modeling, and you can also rotate an object and stitch multiple scans together into a QuickTime VR movie. Although the Lightshow works with most scanners, its operation varies with different scanners, depending on how high above the surface the scanner can focus. A digital camera could produce similar images, but the beauty of Lightshow scans is that they are high quality and include just the scanned object, with no background. [ACE]
The Need for Speed — Apple introduced its new Power Mac G4 minitower computers with built-in gigabit Ethernet at Macworld, and TidBITS sponsor Farallon Communications was ready with the first in its series of new "Gigabit Over Copper" products. Shipping in August are the Fast Starlet Gig Switch/4T, a four-port switch designed to handle 100Base-T or 1000Base-T (gigabit) connections; and the NetLINE Gigabit PCI card, an add-on card to bring gigabit Ethernet into existing desktop machines. If you now have a 100Base-T network, even putting just your server on a gigabit connection can dramatically improve client connections, as they’ll no longer be sharing a single 100 Mbps pipe to the server. Naturally, you can link these switches to one another, and switches with more ports are expected soon. Through the end of the year (or while supplies last) Farallon will include two or more Timbuktu Pro licenses (from their old friends at Netopia) with each gigabit product purchased. [MHA]
Along with the numerous cool bits of hardware we saw at the show, plenty of software stood out as well.
Excel-lent Recognition of Reality — Everybody knows Microsoft Excel is a powerful spreadsheet tool with an unimaginable number of features that confound the numerically disinclined. But lots of people continue to use Excel for less taxing tasks, such as averaging a set of numbers or even making grid-based schedule signs. When Microsoft researched how people use Excel, they found that 60 percent of users rely on the program to manage simple lists of information. Even though a database might be a better tool for the job, Excel’s built-in grid of columns and rows maps to the way people think about lists, so Microsoft added and exposed features in Excel 2001 (due in October, with the rest of the Microsoft Office 2001 suite) that make list management much easier (see the Web page below for an interface preview). Like many of the other new features and interfaces that Microsoft showed in Microsoft Office 2001 at Macworld Expo, Excel’s List Manager will appear initially in the Macintosh version of Office – even if the Windows version of Office copies it, it’s great to see the Macintosh design sensibility leading the way. [ACE]
Most Compelling Preview — Power On Software was showing an early version of Rewind, a utility that tracks all changes to your hard disk in the background while you work and enables you to "rewind" your hard disk (or just individual files) to some point in the past, reversing all changes no matter how serious or damaging. Deleting files, overwriting files, virus infection, system corruption – it doesn’t matter. You can even rewind past changes that make the Mac incapable of booting. Power On hopes to ship Rewind in the fourth quarter of 2000, and although it demoed extremely well at the show, a utility that works at such a low level needs extensive reliability testing. [ACE]
Best Head-to-Head Combat — The age of computer speech recognition is upon us, and the thrill of the Expo for me was the competition between IBM and MacSpeech in the realm of dictation software, where the computer types as you speak. IBM released ViaVoice at the previous Expo, and this time the company released the $150 ViaVoice for Macintosh, Enhanced Edition, works with USB microphones, ameliorates a number of interface infelicities, and now lets you dictate directly into a few other applications besides the supplied SpeakPad. Most important, when you correct an error, ViaVoice adjusts its acoustic model (previously, it adjusted only its linguistic model). Meanwhile, although release of their long-anticipated iListen is probably still several months away, MacSpeech was handing out free previews on CD at the show (which you can order online for $10 shipping and handling); there’s no command-and-control or correction yet, but after you train the program you can dictate into any application. Stay tuned for further developments. [MAN]
Most Welcome Transmogrified Upgrade — Speed Doubler fans take note – Connectix has released CopyAgent, a $40 Mac OS 9-compatible program that incorporates the advanced copying and keyboard acceleration features of Speed Doubler, while dropping the alternate 68K emulator and disk caching aspects of the program. Improvements over Speed Doubler include a Smart Replace that copies only changed files and a limited macro feature that types text strings in response to keyboard shortcut hotkeys. [ACE]
Most Fun Combination of Technologies — Believe it or not, the uses of computers have not been exhausted. Now that they’re getting faster, they can also be smarter, and I particularly love when diverse technologies are married in interesting ways. The $400 SmartScore, from Musitek, puts together OCR, graphics, and MIDI. Basically, you put a piece of printed sheet music into your scanner, and SmartScore decodes it before rendering it beautifully on screen. Now you can make adjustments to the score (because SmartScore is also music editing software), print it out, and even have your computer play it. In other words, not only does SmartScore translate between MIDI and printed score formats, it literally reads music! As someone who frequently plays music from score (by hand) into a MIDI sequencer program so I can play duets with myself, this is something I can really use. [MAN]
Catastrophe Waiting to Happen? Micromat is enormously pleased about having added virus protection to version 3 of its popular $100 TechTool Pro (upgrades are $50). We’re alarmed to see, though, that the virus protection ignores the important field of document macro viruses, the pesky viruses that typically travel within Microsoft Word or Excel documents. Although these are far more serious on Windows machines than on Macs, macro viruses are far more common than resource viruses that infect the Mac OS itself, and we feel claiming to offer virus protection without scanning for macro viruses does the user a tremendous disservice. This is the key issue that led Disinfectant developer John Norstad to retire his software, rather than lull users into a false sense of security. Micromat says a later version of TechTool Pro will address macro viruses, but couldn’t say when. [MHA]
Stealth Web Product — Strider Software, Inc. was showing off version 3.5 of the venerable TypeStyler software. The $120 (download) to $150 (boxed) TypeStyler 3 provides a well-implemented set of features for video production, print media, and Web designers, such as automatically creating rollover effects or animated text, along with the necessary HTML markup to display it all on the Web. Strider also added lots of new effects, such as glows, bevels, embossing, and more. [MHA]
In addition to notable hardware and software products, there were a number of superlatives that just don’t fit into standard categories – interesting booths, Web resources seen at the show, noteworthy events, or inspired handouts.
Best Font Resource — Since almost everything I do is online, I enjoy the aesthetics of fonts more than I actually use them, but I’m still impressed with MyFonts.com, a Web site devoted to fonts that’s clearly done by font aficionados. You can use the TypeXplorer tool to browse MyFonts.com’s 10,000-font database by adjusting thickness, width, height, and other font variables. When you find a font, MyFonts.com displays a graphic preview, and clicking the "testdrive" link lets you type in your own text and see it in the selected font at the size you choose. Although I haven’t tried it, the Identafont Tool also sounds neat – if you see a font that you can’t identify, you can scan in a sample, upload it and Identafont tells you the closest matches in the MyFonts.com database. You can browse by font styles, font names, font designers, or font foundries, and whenever you find a font, MyFonts.com can show you fonts from the same designer, foundry, or that just look similar. And of course, many of the fonts you find at MyFonts.com are available for sale so you can add them to your collection. [ACE]
Most Valuable Free Handout — Tekserve, a New York City Mac repair shop on West 23rd Street, was giving away a 25-page booklet answering some common and not-so-common Mac questions. It was literate, well-organized, clear, and remarkably technical and comprehensive, covering a number of topics that have arisen recently on TidBITS Talk, such as the various keys you can hold down at startup (which was also a TidBITS quiz subject), and the difference between the several flavors of SCSI. You can’t pack up your Mac and send it to Tekserve; they accept only walk-ins (no appointment needed). This almost made me wish I still lived in the Big Apple; readers who do might want to give them a look. [MAN]
Adding Insult to Injury — Shortly before Steve Jobs’s Macworld keynote address began, I realized I’d been lied to earlier, when I asked if the auditorium I’d found, with podium, colored lights, and massive video screens, was the site of the keynote, and the IDG World Expo staff member at the door had said "Yes." Watching the keynote by video wasn’t as much fun as seeing it live, but I figured I’d survive, although I was annoyed that I’d arrived early enough to get to the keynote itself, had the woman at the door simply been honest.) I regretted my decision when the audio from the main auditorium kept cutting out, but I was stunned when Jobs announced everyone at the keynote would get a free Apple Pro Mouse. Giving a free Apple Pro Mouse to the people who attended the keynote was a great way of apologizing for the widely disparaged hockey puck mouse. Unfortunately, Jobs didn’t actually mean "everyone" – unlike the 4,000 people in the main auditorium, the 3,000 people in the overflow room didn’t have little tickets attached underneath their seats that they could trade in for a mouse, and were appalled to be told, "You can only have a mouse if you went to the keynote," when they had. Apple thoroughly and unnecessarily irritated these people, when, with a little planning, it could all have been avoided. Even a change as simple as Jobs saying "Everyone in this room gets a mouse" would at least have made the distinction clear, but as it was, a great PR stunt was blunted by a foolish mistake. [MHA]
Best Toddler Tchotchke — SanDisk, makers of those amazingly small Compact Flash and Smart Media memory cards, took this one hands down with the Laser Balls they were judiciously giving out to interested show goers. Trade show giveaways make great toddler toys, and the high-bouncing Laser Ball proved popular for the flashing LED and alarm-like sounds it made upon contact with the floor. I’d had little experience with SanDisk’s memory cards until MacHack, when projector problems forced me to transfer my presentation to a friend’s machine using his Nikon 990 digital camera’s 64 MB Compact Flash card with a PC Card cage as a removable RAM disk. The Compact Flash cards come in sizes from 8 to 192 MB, and the even smaller Smart Media cards range from 8 to 32 MB. [ACE]
Big… Really Big — They don’t have William Shatner, but dealmac does have an army of staff and users who prowl the net for the best deals on Mac-related bargains. The company’s new "mydealmac" service lets you subscribe to a custom email notification service that lets you know when there’s a great deal to be had on something you’re looking for. We knew these guys were worth checking out when we spotted long-time TidBITS sponsor Small Dog Electronics prominently featured as a vendor. [MHA]
Booth Most Likely to Rook You In — The French company Intego wins this award for their giant inflatable castle tower that looked like one of Godzilla’s chess pieces as it towered to the ceiling in the Javits Convention Center. Around the base of the tower Intego showed off their personal firewall NetBarrier and a new anti-virus program called VirusBarrier. VirusBarrier features background scanning, automatic repairs, automatic updates via the Internet to address new viruses, and an elegant interface. Unfortunately, we were unable to confirm at the show or on Intego’s Web site if VirusBarrier could handle macro viruses (the virus library included listed only resource viruses), and Intego folks couldn’t tell us about the source of VirusBarrier’s virus library or its repair methods. [ACE]
Most Hypnotic Sales Spiel — When I first heard about Nisus Email, my reaction was: "What are they smoking over at Nisus Software?" It’s an email program with essentially no interface; instead of giving you a place to type and read messages (and instead of storing your mail itself), it sends and receives mail as ordinary text files organized in designated folders. In other words, you create a text file, including headers, using an ordinary word processor; you save it into a certain folder; and Nisus Email sees it, parses it, and sends it out. In spite of my skepticism, I was utterly enchanted with the presentation by Nisus’s Mark Hurvitz, who really had me thinking this was a brilliant new paradigm for doing email and the greatest thing since sliced bread. Then as soon as I walked away, the thought struck me: "But why?!" – and I was a skeptic again. But don’t let my waffling stop you from trying the free demo. [MAN]
Most Serious Bugs — As a PR stunt, Jason Whong, who used to work for game developer Ambrosia Software, vowed to eat live bugs if any bugs were found in any Ambrosia products released during from the third quarter of 1999 to the second quarter of 2000. Bugs were found, and even though Jason had moved on to another job at Green Dragon Creations, he still showed up at the 3dfx Interactive (makers of high-end video cards for gaming) booth to debug a number of hissing cockroaches, tarantulas, mealworms, and other crunchy critters (see the Ambrosia link below for a full list, including recipes). I’d say that eating the bugs took guts, but Jason ate those too. Bleh. And for those of you who just can’t resist, check out Utterer.com’s photo galleries for pictures of Jason and the bugs (and for those of you with sharp eyes, a picture of me that I’ll explain at some future date). [ACE]