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Adam Engst No comments

TidBITS Wedding

As much as it would be a blast, we can’t invite the thousands of you to the wedding. Tonya and I are getting married on June 15th, 1991, in a place probably best described as "somewhere in the middle of New York State." The ground rules for the wedding include (a) no one is allowed to wear uncomfortable shoes, and (b) if anyone absolutely has to wear a tie (which isn’t encouraged), it had better be a fish tie. I personally own an extremely nice barracuda tie that I probably won’t wear.

We figured that it was best to mention this in TidBITS if only because there’s no chance that we’re going to put an issue out two days after the wedding. We’ll have more important things to attend to. So don’t look for a June 17th issue of TidBITS, although we’ll be back at it soon after.

On a related note, we will be moving to the Seattle area in late July, and it may take a little while to get net access up and running again. Mark H. Anbinder, whose name often graces these screens, has offered to help out then, so we hope that TidBITS will not suffer too much as we pull up roots (and cables) (we both grew up here in Ithaca) and move west. Again, we hope that net access will appear shortly after we arrive, at which point TidBITS can gear up again.

Many thanks for your enthusiasm and support and please bear with us through these next few months of utter and complete (though enjoyable) confusion.

Cheers … Adam C. Engst & Tonya Byard

Adam Engst No comments


Second, I foolishly said something nasty about how MIPS RISC chips weren’t used in the mainstream RISC boxes. Bryan Van Vliet and Frank Nagy both corrected me on this one, since both DEC and Silicon Graphics use the MIPS chips and together hold about 23% of the market. Oops. Admittedly, Sun alone has about 30% of the market and IBM is expected to do very well with its RS/6000 line of RISC machines, but DEC and Silicon Graphics aren’t to be ignored. I’m still not putting any money on the Advanced Computing Environment consortium.

Murph Sewall writes:

I’ve been using AccessPC since it first came out. It is capable of a few strange little things. The only outright conflict I’ve had came when I tried installing the color System icons and AccessPC’s ability to format disks went haywire. I’m not really sure what causes the conflict; it took me awhile to track it down, but I booted with no INITs or cdevs except General and the problem occurs with the color icon resource in System and not without. I have no problem with SunDesk. The System Icons patch (available from Sumex) has icons for the warning and stop sign that System can inject into any application (not just DeskTop stuff). They are meant to be installed directly into System (System 7 will have them built in and I don’t expect a problem then). AccessPC has to patch the System, of course in order to bring up its Mac or MS-DOS dialog when a new disk is inserted. That patch seems to get in the way of a color icon resource in System (or the icon resource gets in the way of the patch – at any rate, the color icons work fine and AccessPC doesn’t).

The other peculiarity occurs only with some software. Try McSink with it. If you add linefeeds to a text file and save directly to a DOS disk the end of the file will be corrupted. You can save the same file in a Mac folder and then drag it to the DOS disk under Finder and it’ll be fine. I’m having the same problem with Mac WordPerfect 2.0. If I export to PC WP 5.x straight to a DOS disk, WP gives me an EOF error and saves nothing. If I save the export file in a Mac folder and use Finder to drag it to the DOS disk the file is fine (PC WP 5.1 reads it with no problems). Since I have virtually the same problem with software from two vendors, I tend to think AccessPC has a little glitch in it. However, MacWrite II seems to export WP 5.x files straight to DOS with no problem (although some of the codes for margins and stuff get whacked a little, but I’ve always thought that was due to limitations in DataViz’s MacLink Plus Translator – maybe I’ve been wrong?).

DataViz is now shipping DOS Mounter 2.0 with the MacLink Plus Translators, so if you get the DataViz product you’ll be able to compare DOS Mounter with AccessPC.

Information from:
Paul Durrant — [email protected]
Frank J. Nagy — [email protected]
Bryan Van Vliet — [email protected]
Murph Sewall — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments


After all that work and trouble to get 576 signatures on our letter to Apple, Connectix announced a software patch called MODE32 which lessens the need for new ROMs for the II, IIx, IIcx, and SE/30. MODE32 provides 32-bit compatibility (and thus access to 128 MB of memory) under System 7 for the Macs that have 24-bit ROMs. To answer Henry Norr’s query in the MacWEEK article on MODE32, no, the announcement did not quiet the campaign for new ROMs. We still feel that Apple advertised these Mac’s ability to address large amounts of RAM without providing it. Apple blundered and Apple should make up for it. In the meantime, kudos to Connectix for releasing a product that should make our lives easier until Apple gets its act together. MODE32 lists for $169, and for $179 you can get MC73, a kit that includes a 68851 PMMU, a grounding strap, and installation instructions for the Mac II.

Of course, you couldn’t put all that much memory in a Mac until recently, because no Macs have more than eight SIMM slots. Luckily for us, Newer Technology just introduced 8 MB and 16 MB SIMMs so the IIfx, IIci, and IIsi can now access up to 128 MB of RAM. Only the IIfx can use the 8 MB SIMMs, but the IIci and IIsi can use the 16 MB SIMMs. Newer Technology bundles Connectix’s Optima/128 utility so that you can get at the memory using System 6, should you still be using System 6 with that much memory around. Since Apple doesn’t recommend using too much virtual memory for speed reasons, the large SIMMs will be welcome. I believe the recommendation is that if you have 8 MB of RAM installed, for instance, you should only define up to 8 MB of virtual memory as well, or else you’ll experience a speed hit.

In the graphics arena, three programs will be offering System 7 support in the coming months. In June, Letraset’s ColorStudio will get some basic enhancements like new effects, new filters, a scripting language for writing new filters, plug-ins for Adobe Photoshop, and some new import and export features. ColorStudio will support standard System 7 features like TrueType, publish and subscribe, Apple Events, and the soon-to-become-obnoxious balloon help. Later in the summer, Specular will release a new version of Infini-D that is System 7-friendly. Specular has added the ability to create 3-D TrueType fonts. Infini-D will also metamorphose a 3-D object created from a TrueType font into another 3-D object based on a 3-D TrueType font. Hopefully Specular will also provide some of the other System 7 features, like publish and subscribe so that these creations can be easily used in other programs as well. Finally, this fall a new version of Ray Dream Designer will use Apple Events to send a 3-D image across a network to a faster Mac for rendering, essentially performing a form of distributed network processing. Apple hasn’t much advertised this ability of Apple Events, so it will be extremely interesting to see how Ray Dream implements it and if others can do the same.

Finally, here’s a good tip from Timothy Allen on Usenet. He had trouble getting the WordMaster Thesaurus DA to work with WriteNow 2.2 and System 7.0, so he installed it directly into the WriteNow application, which you can do with either ResEdit, or by holding down the option key when clicking Open… in the Font/DA Mover. When WordMaster was in WriteNow, it only appeared if WriteNow was in the foreground, but that’s a minor problem. I’d suggest that some enterprising programmer write a dummy application that would only hold DAs. That way you could install your flaky DAs into this DAdummy and get to them all at once by bringing that application to the foreground. Anyone want to write a DAdummy? It can’t be too hard, though you could make it harder by having it be able to import DAs into itself.

Connectix — 800/950-5880 — 415/324-0727
Newer Technology — 800/678-3726 — 316/685-4904
Letraset — 201/845-6100
Specular International — 413/549-7600
Ray Dream — 415/960-0765

Information from:
Connectix propaganda
Newer Technology propaganda
Timothy Allen — [email protected]

Related articles:
MacWEEK — 14-May-91, Vol. 5, #19, pg. 28

Adam Engst No comments

Digital Photography

I enjoy taking photographs, but since I’m not independently wealthy, I can’t afford the cost of processing tons of pictures, much less the cost of some of the equipment I’d like. Since my mother is an archivist, I have an idea how long traditional prints last (not that long). And as the motto goes, "When in doubt, throw hardware at the problem" (and if the hardware is big enough the problem will break – otherwise the hardware will break :-)). So I want to have a decent digital camera that will allow me to take tons of pictures and store them on cheap floppy disks, thus saving film and processing costs.

The first step is to acquire a digital camera. Unfortunately, the digital cameras are still in the independently-wealthy range. The main camera that one could get which isn’t too exorbitant is the Canon XapShot, which people have seen for under $400. The XapShot’s big brother, the RC-470 has 400-line quality as opposed to the XapShot’s 300-line quality. The XapShot requires a video digitizer like the ComputerEyes digitizer (included when you buy a whole kit from Canon for $1099 list for color or $899 list for black and white) or the RasterOps 364 board, whereas the RC-470 is part of the Professional Still Video Imaging Kit (pricey at $4899 list) which includes the FV-540, which is a SCSI-based 2" video floppy drive, and SV Scan image editing software. Pop your 2" analog disk from the RC-470 into the drive and the software will display thumbnails of all the available photos. At that point you can look at any one of them, perform limited image editing, and output to various useful formats. There are other digital cameras, most notably the Sony Mavica and the Dycam Model 1, which lists for $995 and can capture only 256 levels of grey in a 376 by 240 resolution. The Dycam works similarly to the XapShot, although it sounds like it includes the digitizing hardware in the camera itself, since you only have to attach the camera to the computer to transfer the images.

We tested this process at a recent trade show at Cornell University with the Canon RC-470 and kit. The representative took a picture (actually a bunch of them, since the camera can do a number of frames per second) of Tonya and I, then imported into the SV Scan software. We then exported the best picture to PICT format, compressed with a STORM JPEG compression program (which dropped the size from 750K to 50K), and finally took it over to the Tektronix Phaser printer to print it out. After a number of failed printouts, we finally got a decent one. Other than the printer, the whole setup worked very nicely, though you will need 24-bit color to get decent on-screen image quality. If you want to see what the quality is like, send us email and if there is enough interest, we’ll post the compressed picture and the free decompression program to the nets. It’s a scary thought – we might end up as someone’s startup screen!

The coolest product to use digital photography that I’ve seen is a portable office system composed of a 286 or 386sx laptop computer, 4.5 pound Canon BubbleJet printer, Motorola cellular phone, a fax modem that works with the cellular phone, and what sounds like the Dycam digital camera. All this comes from Computer Masters Software and costs $8995 or $9895, depending on which processor you get in the laptop. It’s completely battery-powered, but the company didn’t say how long the batteries lasted or how heavy the whole thing is. Nonetheless, I’m impressed.

As much as I’d like to see true digital cameras (rather than ones that store the image in analog format), Kodak is betting that it will take some time for digital cameras of any variety to catch on. In the meantime, Kodak wants users to send traditional 35mm film in for processing and storage on a CD-ROM, calling the product PhotoCD. Users would then need to buy a special audio/video CD drive produced by Kodak and Philips. With the disk of pictures and the drive, you could then view pictures on your TV. Since PhotoCD won’t be able to display resolution better than is possible on a TV, it won’t have a quality advantage over the digital cameras. Where PhotoCD will be popular is in converting existing photos into a digital format that can be used by computers. The only question is whether or not Kodak will continue with PhotoCD even if the digital cameras limit the market to the oh-so-unpredictable home consumers. I somehow doubt that we’re talking another marketing phenomenon like the VCR here. Besides, one of the primary reasons VCRs became popular, as much as people might not like to admit it, is that it was suddenly possible to watch pornographic films in the privacy of the home.

Canon — 516/488-6700 (Eastern US)
714/979-6000 (Western US)
Dycam — 818/998-8008
Computer Masters Software — 213/645-6530

Information from:
Canon rep
Canon propaganda

Related articles:
MacUser — Jan-91, pg. 245
MacUser — Mar-91, pg. 235
PC WEEK — 08-Apr-91, Vol. 8, #14, pg. 19
PC WEEK — 04-Mar-91, Vol. 8, #9, pg. 126
InfoWorld — 18-Mar-91, Vol. 13, #11, pg. 38, 52
InfoWorld — 11-Feb-91, Vol. 13, #6, pg. 24
InfoWorld — 07-Jan-91, Vol. 13, #1, pg. 21
InfoWorld — 01-Oct-90, Vol. 12, #40, pg. 19
MacWEEK — 05-Mar-91, Vol. 5, #9, pg. 36
MacWEEK — 20-Nov-90, Vol. 4, #40, pg. 44

Adam Engst No comments

Commodore CDTV

Despite being essentially boring technology (ooo, I can just tell some people aren’t going to like that one), CD applications are taking off. First there’s Kodak’s PhotoCD system for storing pictures, and now along comes Commodore with CDTV. CDTV is interesting because it’s basically a wolf in sheep’s clothing, or this case, a computer in CD’s clothing. For $999 list (I’m betting on serious discounts on this beast), you can get a CD-player that attaches to TV sets (I wonder if it will work with PhotoCD?) and which you can control with a standard infrared remote control unit. With the remote control you can push the buttons in CDTV-specific applications, and in doing so, play video games (though an optional trackball or joystick will be better for that), view multimedia presentations, and listen to audio recordings. Sounds like fun, no?

The deception is that inside CDTV is, as far as I can tell, most of a Commodore Amiga computer, much like the ultra-cool Video Toaster that has video people drooling in their keyboards. If you want, you can buy a hard disk, a floppy disk, a keyboard, a monitor, and probably a mouse, and poof, you’ve got an Amiga. I don’t know if you can go the other way if you already own an Amiga, but I wouldn’t be surprised. If you want to create CDs for CDTV, Commodore sells a complete authoring system based on the Amiga for under $10,000. Ten grand is a lot of money, but it’s a lot less than you’d pay for any other CD mastering system.

If you think about it, CDTV is trying for two markets, the video game market and the home computer market. The video game market is notoriously flaky and systems seldom spend more than a few years at the top, so CDTV may have some time there, but it’s unlikely to last. The home computer market is even more unpredictable, and hiding a computer inside a video game unit has produced some incredible flops, most notably the Coleco Adam computer. On the other hand, the Amiga can do some impressive things with sound and graphics, so CDTV has a chance if it comes in cheap enough. Alternately, I suppose Commodore could follow in the footsteps of the VCR marketers and release video game/multimedia versions of Debbie Does Dallas and Deep Throat. 🙂

Commodore — 800/448-9987

Related articles:
InfoWorld — 15-Apr-91, Vol. 13, #15, pg. 24