Going to Macworld Expo 2001 in San Francisco? Read on for information about must-attend parties, events, and other gatherings. Also this week, Matt Neuburg weighs in with a review of MacSpeech’s iListen dictation software, we look at the new Norton SystemWorks and Norton Internet Security bundles from Symantec, and we cover Newer Technology closing up shop and the releases of Interarchy 4.0, BBEdit 6.0.2, ListSTAR 2.1, and Default Folder 3.0.9.
Welcome to 2001!
Welcome to 2001! We’re back from our two-week hiatus (only five or six hours of which were spent in the Detroit airport watching heavy machinery move snowdrifts around) and we couldn’t resist the numerological happenstance of publishing on 01-01-01, so we mustered enough strength (a tad tricky, after retiring to bed at 01:01) to bring you this issue. Despite the troubles Apple and the rest of the computer industry have had of late, we’re looking forward to this year, since we anticipate a Steve Jobs-led Apple will respond to adversity in interesting and aggressive ways, hopefully starting at next week’s Macworld Expo in San Francisco.
One minor change in TidBITS for 2001 that you may notice – we’re no longer releasing new polls or quizzes every week. Response rates were dropping, and we felt we were pushing too hard to come up with relevant questions. We’ll continue to do polls or quizzes when appropriate to the contents of future issues, so keep an eye out.
Best wishes to everyone in the upcoming year! [ACE]
Newer Technology Closing Shop
Newer Technology Closing Shop — Macintosh enhancement pioneer Newer Technology has announced it is ceasing operations; 29-Dec-00 was the last day of work for the bulk of Newer’s employees, and a shareholder meeting 08-Jan-01 will determine whether the company will file for bankruptcy protection. Newer Technology has a long history in the Macintosh industry, having first built its business on memory upgrades, then shifting into expansions for PowerBooks, clock chip accelerators, and Macintosh CPU upgrades. Newer filed for bankruptcy protection in 1996 when the world RAM market buckled, but it seemed to be recovering its stride with a wide range of well-regarded CPU upgrade products. Newer announced an equity partnership with Singapore’s Tri-M Technologies in February of 2000; Tri-M had been manufacturing Newer products, and during the last year provided Newer with operating capital and brought in an executive team to help operate the company. However, despite executive denials and plans to exhibit new products at the upcoming Macworld Expo in San Francisco, in recent weeks Newer has been unloading inventory at fire sale prices, and rumors abounded that Newer was looking for a buyer among remaining upgrade vendors. Newer Technology’s shutdown is likely due to a lack of demand in the Macintosh upgrade market and comparatively inexpensive new machines from Apple – a $400 CPU upgrade has trouble competing with an $800 iMac. There’s no word yet on what support or update options, if any, will be available for Newer’s hardware and software products. [GD]
Interarchy 4.0 Streamlines Look
Interarchy 4.0 Streamlines Look — Stairways Software has released Interarchy 4.0, the latest version of the widely used Internet helper application formerly known as Anarchie. Interarchy 4.0 doesn’t boast any new major features (though the previous free update to version 3.8 offered a number by incorporating a customizable interface builder, a TCP network traffic watcher, and numerous "friendly" daemons from Stairways’s earlier software offerings). Instead, Interarchy 4.0 simplifies its setup and installation process and abandons the eldritch themes of runes, magic, and wands in favor of a streamlined default interface and an almost arid Web site built around 9-point Monaco – it’s almost like having a flashback to the days of BBSes and 1200 bps modems. Interarchy 4.0 also includes numerous unspecified tweaks and enhancements to its underlying transfer engine. The program is a 2.2 MB download and $35 shareware; registered owners of previous versions of Anarchie and Interarchy can upgrade for $10. [GD]
BBEdit 6.0.2 Available
BBEdit 6.0.2 Available — Bare Bones Software has released BBEdit 6.0.2, a minor revision to its popular text editor, programming tool, and Web authoring tool. (See "BBEdit 6.0 Improves Powerful Text Editing" in TidBITS-547.) Version 6.0.2 includes enhancements to BBEdit’s SourceServer (Projector) features and scripting interface which better enable users to check in, check out, and cancel modifications to documents maintained by version control systems. BBEdit 6.0.2 also rolls in support for CHTML markup used by iMode cellular telephones, includes an option to select whole lines with a single click, and adds a number of other fixes and tweaks. The 2.2 MB update is free to registered owners of BBEdit 6.x. [GD]
Default Folder 3.0.9 Released
Default Folder 3.0.9 Released — St. Clair Software has released Default Folder 3.0.9, fixing bugs and improving compatibility in the $25 shareware utility for enhancing Open and Save dialog boxes (see "Tools We Use: Default Folder" in TidBITS-475). The new version fixes a problem that caused crashes on PowerPC-based machines running Mac OS 8.1 or earlier. Version 3.0.8, released a short time ago, added support for Mac OS X’s Classic environment, as well as Apple’s upcoming Mac OS 9.1. It also includes the capability to turn off Navigation Services on an application-by-application basis, plus other enhancements. Default Folder 3.0.9 is a free update for registered users. [JLC]
MCF Quickly Releases ListSTAR 2.1
MCF Quickly Releases ListSTAR 2.1 — Less than two months after the company’s acquisition of the ListSTAR mailing list server from 4D, MCF Software has released ListSTAR 2.1, which marks the return (and updating) of ListSTAR/POP. The POP version of ListSTAR, which hadn’t received any updates in years, offers essentially all the features of ListSTAR/SMTP (though slower performance) without requiring a dedicated Internet connection. Other improvements in the upgrade, which is free to users of earlier versions, include correctly formatted message IDs, the capability for the SMTP version to co-exist with another SMTP server on the same Mac, easier list creation with less user intervention, and elimination of some AppleScript problems in ListSTAR 2.0. ListSTAR 2.1 costs $275, with free evaluation licenses available. ListSTAR/SMTP 2.1 is a 5 MB download; ListSTAR/POP 2.1 weighs in at a 4.5 MB download. [ACE]
Poll Results: The Benefits of Unix
Poll Results: The Benefits of Unix — In our last regular issue of 2000, we leveraged Chris Pepper’s two-part series on Mac OS X and Unix to ask TidBITS readers which stance best described the degree they thought they’d benefit from those Unix’s underpinnings. Nearly half (46 percent) of the poll’s respondents said they felt the Unix underpinnings would benefit them greatly, providing both the power and flexibility of Unix with the ease of use of a Macintosh. Just over a quarter felt Unix would benefit them only indirectly through increased system stability, and just under 20 percent responded that they felt they would benefit somewhat by directly accessing some Unix tools or capabilities. Only seven percent said they felt Mac OS X’s Unix underpinnings were of no benefit to them – unfortunately, I’m in that camp for the foreseeable future, since a good deal of my work relies on audio hardware and software which is unlikely to be compatible with Mac OS X for some time. C’est la vie. [GD]
The Passing of Martin Minow
The Passing of Martin Minow — I was cleaning out some old email while flying back from visiting family for Christmas when I came upon an message from Martin Minow, a puckish and insightful friend I see every year at the Netters’ Dinner at Macworld Expo. The message didn’t need a reply, but that didn’t lessen my sadness when I saw a new message in another mailbox telling me Martin had just died suddenly of arteriosclerotic heart disease. Most recently, Martin had been a senior software engineer at ThinkLink, a voice-over-IP communications company, but before that he spent seven years at Apple as a SCSI guru, and for the 20 years before that he worked at Digital Equipment Corporation, first in Sweden and then in the U.S. I didn’t know Martin well on a personal level, though he surprised me once in 1998 by inviting me to a picnic barbecue his running club was putting on after the San Francisco Bay to Breakers race. We hadn’t exchanged email in months, and I was perplexed as to how he’d heard I’d be running that race. It turned out the news had leaked out via the widespread network of Mac folks we both knew. I’ll treasure that quirky memory of Martin, both so a bit of him continues with me and because it reminds me just how important the community of Macintosh users really is. [ACE]
Symantec Releases Two Norton Bundles
You may have thought Norton Utilities was a bundle of utility programs, but with Norton SystemWorks and Norton Internet Security, Symantec has gone one more step in bundling. Norton SystemWorks 1.0 puts the emphasis on hard disks with Norton Utilities 6.0, Norton AntiVirus 7.0, Dantz Development’s Retrospect Express 4.0.3 backup utility, and Aladdin Systems’ Spring Cleaning 3.5 uninstaller. Norton Utilities 6.0 itself seems a relatively minor upgrade, primarily encompassing improvements to volume recovery, especially when Norton FileSaver was not previously installed. Most of the features in Norton Utilities 6.0 are available to run on Mac OS X Public Beta disks as long as you boot from the CD-ROM or from a Mac OS 9 partition. Similarly, Norton AntiVirus 7.0 can run disk scans and repair infected files on Mac OS X Public Beta partitions as long as the program is launched from a Mac OS 9 partition or CD-ROM. The other two notable changes in Norton AntiVirus 7.0 are automatic virus scans and repairs in email attachments, plus simplified preferences. Norton SystemWorks is priced at a compelling (when compared with the prices of its components) $130 with upgrades available for Retrospect Express and Spring Cleaning users at $80. Norton Utilities 6.0 alone costs $100 with upgrades from previous versions at $50. Norton AntiVirus alone costs $70, with its upgrades from previous versions ringing up at $40.
The Norton Internet Security 1.0 bundle focuses on those of us with dedicated Internet connections, thanks to Norton Personal Firewall 1.0, Norton AntiVirus 7.0, and Aladdin’s iClean 3.5 (for removing Web surfing tracks). The Mac OS 9-compatible Norton Personal Firewall incorporates technology from Open Door Networks’ DoorStop Personal Edition and can block connection attempts from the Internet, notify users of such attempts, and log denied and allowed connections. It can also restrict access to Internet services by IP address and port number. Norton Personal Firewall replaces DoorStop Personal Edition, though Open Door continues to sell DoorStop Server Edition and is now working on Who’s There?, a utility that works with DoorStop Personal Edition and Norton Personal Firewall to help users understand and deal with unauthorized access attempts. The bundle costs $100 with upgrades for users of Norton AntiVirus, DoorStop, Spring Cleaning, iClean and sidegrades for users of Intego’s NetBarrier personal firewall and McAfee’s Virex anti-virus utility at $70. By itself, Norton Personal Firewall costs $70 with upgrades (presumably from DoorStop Personal Edition, though that’s not stated) at $40.
System requirements sufficient for the components of both Norton SystemWorks and Norton Internet Security are a PowerPC-based Mac running Mac OS 8.1 or later with at least 24 MB of RAM.
Macworld San Francisco 2001 Events
Macworld Expo in San Francisco has no parallel in its status as the event for the Macintosh industry. Tens of thousands of attendees and hundreds of exhibitors pack the two halls of San Francisco’s cavernous Moscone Center. But there’s far more to do than wander up and down the aisles, trying to remember in the crush of the moment precisely which companies’ products you wanted to see. Here then are a few suggestions to help you break out and see something a little different during this year’s show from January 9th through 12th.
TidBITS Events — Come show your support for TidBITS by helping fill the audiences at the various different presentations members of the TidBITS staff are giving throughout the four days of Macworld. Wear a TidBITS t-shirt to one of my presentations and I’ll sign it on the spot! If you don’t have one yet, I have several to hand out to a lucky few at my events.
On Tuesday, January 9th, I’ll be signing copies of my Eudora Visual QuickStart Guide and doing a Q&A session about Eudora, email, TidBITS, and anything else you want to throw at me (other than tomatoes) at the Aladdin Systems booth (#1707) at 2:00 PM. Or, if you’re into Web authoring, TidBITS Managing Editor Jeff Carlson (along with Glenn Fleishman, his co-author and the editor-in-chief of our defunct NetBITS publication) will be signing copies of Real World Adobe GoLive 5 at the Peachpit Press booth (#643). That’s also at 2:00 PM, and Jeff and I are competing to see who can draw the larger crowd. Then, at 5:00 PM, I strongly encourage everyone to make it to the Macworld Magazine booth (#1207) for another installment of Macworld editor Chris Breen’s tremendously enjoyable Pundits Panel, with me, Andy Ihnatko, and a player to be named later (possibly Jason Snell or Bob LeVitus) commenting on Steve Jobs’s keynote and what we’ve seen so far. (The keynote is open only to conference and workshop attendees, and you’ll need your badge and badge holder to get in on the first come, first served basis. You can register and pick up badge holders at Moscone’s Upper North Hall until 6:00 PM Sunday and Monday before the Tuesday morning keynote.)
On Wednesday, January 10th, at 11:00 AM, Jeff Carlson will be back at the Peachpit Press booth (#643), signing copies of his Palm Organizers Visual QuickStart Guide. At 11:45 AM, I’m giving a presentation at the O’Reilly booth (#2523) about the main irritating things a Macintosh user will encounter when using Windows. I’ll also be giving my opinion of what’s really wrong with Windows programs and signing copies of my Crossing Platforms book. At 1:45 PM, TidBITS Contributing Editor Matt Neuburg (who was the best professor I had at Cornell University and whose talks are extremely enjoyable) will present "Who’s Afraid of Object-Oriented Programming with REALbasic" at the O’Reilly booth (#2523).
On Thursday, January 11th, at 2:00 PM (Pacific), those of you who aren’t attending Macworld Expo can tune in to a Web-based chat I’m doing from the floor of the show for World Without Borders. I recommend getting set up to listen in a little early, since it can take a few minutes to log in and get the Java chat applet running properly. Then, at 4:00 PM, I’ll move over to the Peachpit Press booth (#643) to field any email-related questions you have for an "Ask the Email Doctor" Q&A session.
On Friday, January 12th, we’re all on simultaneously. At 10:15 AM, Jeff will be on a panel opining about the future of the Palm platform at the Macworld Magazine booth (#1207). At 10:30 AM, I’ll be reprising my "Backup Strategies for Macintosh Managers" conference session with Craig Isaacs of Dantz Development in Salon 12/13 of the Marriott Hotel. And also at 10:30 AM, Matt Neuburg will be holding forth to conference attendees a topic near and dear to his heart, macros and scripting.
Party Lists — Although it might seem that the end of the show each day is a signal to get some dinner and rest, much, if not more, of the real movement in the industry happens after 6:00 PM every night at numerous parties, receptions, and informal gatherings. These events aren’t for everyone – they tend to be loud, crowded, and filled with people who know each other. They can be a great time, though, and they’re often a good way to meet people. The canonical list of parties and other events remains the Robert Hess Memorial Party List as maintained by the indefatigable Ilene Hoffman, and if that doesn’t contain enough parties for you, check to see if the KarenNet list has any additional ones. If you’re hosting an event of any sort at Macworld Expo, you should make sure to submit it – after all, we’re talking free publicity here. And as always, we encourage anyone planning parties to read our "Macworld Geek Party Guide" from TidBITS-415 for tips on throwing successful trade show parties. Some companies have clearly read that article; others would still do well to do so.
Netters’ Dinner — The main public party I go to every year is the Netters’ Dinner, a huge banquet of spicy Chinese food attended each of the last 15 years by Macintosh users from the Internet. Fifteen years ago, that meant a small group of subscribers to Info-Mac; today it means up to 300 people who have found the group a most congenial and enjoyable alternative to the company-sponsored parties. Jeff Carlson and I will both be there, and Jon Pugh (who organizes the dinner each year) will lead the traditional march from Moscone to the Hunan on Sansome and Broadway, and attempt to moderate the boisterous show-of-hands survey we do every year.
The Netters’ Dinner is Thursday, January 11th, at 6:00 PM. Meet at the top of the escalators on Moscone’s south side and be ready for a brisk, traffic-stopping walk. Dinner costs $17, and you must register in advance via Kagi. Also, if you’d like to submit questions for the show-of-hands survey, visit the editable WikiWeb page I’ve set up, click the Edit link at the top, and add your question to the others.
San Francisco via Vindigo — Finally, if you have a Palm handheld and you’re new to San Francisco, and particularly if you plan to do some wandering around the city, check out the San Francisco edition of Vindigo. Just tell Vindigo where you are, and it can display nearby restaurants sorted by price, cuisine, or distance. Reviews for many of the restaurants are available, and there are always walking instructions.
See you in San Francisco!
Speak the MacSpeech, I Pray You
With the release of its much-anticipated iListen dictation software, MacSpeech, Inc. has at long last fired a real salvo in its hitherto mostly verbal rivalry with IBM’s ViaVoice. Although the two programs are outwardly similar – each initially presents a series of windows where you adjust your microphone and train your voice model by reading some stories, and is then represented by a small global floating window where you turn the microphone on and off – they are marked by radically different philosophies. ViaVoice centers around its own voice-driven word processor, SpeakPad; you can dictate into a few other applications through plug-ins or scripting, but this feature is slow and unreliable. (See "Talk Is Cheap: ViaVoice Enhanced Edition" in TidBITS-544.) iListen, on the other hand, has no word processor; you just dictate into any application. This magic is accomplished through the same macro power that characterized MacSpeech’s earlier ListenDo (see "Bossing Your Mac with PlainTalk" in TidBITS-545); essentially, iListen hooks into your Macintosh at a low level and acts as a ghostly typist at an invisible keyboard.
This approach has its advantages. First, iListen comes with all the macro power of ListenDo (except for ListenDo’s ability to let you call out names of menus and menu items), so in addition to typing through dictation, you can tell your Mac to start up applications, close windows, click the mouse, and so forth – and these commands are triggered through iListen’s internal speech recognition engine, not PlainTalk, so they work much more reliably. Second, iListen has a lighter feel then ViaVoice. SpeakPad is a clunky program, a substandard word processor whose files are huge (because the program is recording your voice so that it can respond to your corrections by improving its voice model later) and slow to save. iListen, on the other hand, basically just types; what you’re actually working in is your favorite word processor, email program, outliner, or whatever – in other words, you’re in some program that you actually like. So, while ViaVoice feels like a huge application that has taken over your computer, iListen feels more like a huge system extension adding dictation functionality to your computer behind the scenes.
Since iListen can’t edit your document or improve its internal models on the fly, you’re always essentially dictating a first draft, in the expectation of using hands and keyboard to fix mistakes. But that’s not such a terrible thing; you just chatter away carelessly, and clean up later, or even at the same time, in a sort of voice-and-hands partnership. More of a problem is that there’s no access to the program’s internal vocabulary; ViaVoice lets you enter a word and train its pronunciation, but iListen has no such ability, so it can’t learn any expressions it doesn’t already know, or even adapt to your quirks of pronunciation. (For example, I have no way to let iListen know that I say "neither" as "NYE-ther.") A spelling mode in part makes up for this, but in most cases it isn’t worth using; since you’ll be cleaning up manually anyway, you’ll probably just let iListen’s mistakes stand during the first pass.
MacSpeech has promised a future free upgrade that will include a vocabulary trainer, the capability to improve the voice model by correcting errors, and the missing speakable menus macro feature. Meanwhile, MacSpeech was probably wise to release this version now; it gave them something to sell over the holiday season and show at next week’s Macworld Expo. Besides, even if you think of iListen in its present state as more of a demonstration than a finished, full-featured program, it’s a great demonstration, and very definitely usable.
To be sure, iListen takes up a healthy chunk of RAM (about 60 MB), and does bog the computer down a bit, plus starting it up and switching modes can be slow; and it probably isn’t without bugs – I think it reconfigures my Energy Saver settings incorrectly, for example, and it seems not to work at all in Microsoft Word on my machine. But the speech recognition engine is astoundingly nimble, easily able to match my normal pace of dictation, and quite decently accurate, especially considering that so far I’ve only read three of the dozen or so training stories that come with it (you’re urged to do all of them). And even ViaVoice isn’t perfectly accurate, after all, though my copy, now trained to a fare-thee-well, does make vastly fewer errors than iListen. Thus, you may well prefer iListen despite its missing pieces, because it’s so pleasant and easy, it’s available in any program, and it doubles as a voice-driven macro program. You won’t have a totally hands-free experience, but you can use your voice to order your computer about and to get a first draft of your words down on virtual paper, and that might be all you really need.
iListen requires Mac OS 9, a Macintosh with a PowerPC G3 or G4 processor, and 128 MB RAM. It costs $130 but is presently $100 if downloaded from MacSpeech’s Web site (a 40 MB download, which takes up about 130 MB installed); there’s a $30 rebate for ViaVoice users. iListen also requires a noise-cancelling microphone (not included; about $50).