Tom Fitch writes, "In TidBITS-058, you mention that the Magnavox color monitor is a Trinitron, when in fact it is made by Phillips. Still a pretty good screen for the money. Also, if you are concerned about the expense of the Excel 3.0 upgrade, you may want to mention the Claris "sidegrade" offer, $99 for Resolve. Congratulations on the matrimony!" [Thanks, Tom!]
A quick clarification. Last week I said something about how Claris was designing all of its products to share the same interface, but I accidentally included HyperCard in that list, which simply isn’t true. HyperCard shares no features with the other Claris products, though it would be interesting if they modified the program so it did share some features. However, I’m not betting on a HyperCard 2.5 or 3.0 anytime soon. See More Apple News for the dirt.
Tom Fitch — [email protected]
Lots of new utilities will be coming out to take advantage of System 7 and all that can be done with Apple Events and the like. From the sound of it, one of the most useful and powerful will be CE’s QuicKeys 2.1 (besides I should say something nice about them after hassling them about not making QuickMail Server 2.5 System 7-compatible two weeks ago). CE has come up with something called CE/IAC, which allows QuicKeys 2.1 to receive IAC events from other applications. That’s the heart of QuicKeys’s new System 7-studliness, which encompasses the Apple Events Extension, the Finder Events Extension, the UserLand Extension, and the Frontier Extension. The Apple Events Extension lets QuicKeys send Apple Events to other applications, even over a network if desired. The UserLand Extensions works like the Apple Events Extension, but supports UserLand IAC-aware applications. The Finder Events Extension sends Apple Events to the Finder, which can be useful for automating tasks involving the Finder. Included events are Show Clipboard, Show, Print, Open (Document, Application, DA, Control Panel, Alias, etc.), Sleep, and Get Info. The Frontier Extension can send scripts to UserLand’s Frontier program, which is a scripting language for controlling applications via IAC. It strikes me that some of this might be a tad redundant, but the worse that can happen is that you’ll have a choice in how to implement certain IAC actions. QuicKeys 2.1 is a $15 upgrade and should be out soon.
For those of you who use MacX, Apple has an upgrade to version 1.1, appropriately titled 1.1.7, since the only people who will upgrade are those who use MacX and want to use System 7 as well. Do note that if you use MacX in A/UX, you should NOT upgrade since A/UX is not compatible with System 7. The other reason not to upgrade if you use A/UX is that A/UX has come with MacX since A/UX version 2.01, so you’d be wasting your money. The System 7-compatible version of A/UX will incorporate MacX 1.1.7. The main enhancement to MacX in terms of System 7 capabilities is that you can now use virtual memory, which is handy with X applications. You also get 30 days of Technical Answerline support from Apple for your $95 upgrade fee (which Apple claims is 34% less than the cost of the previous upgrade fee). The full price is $295, and MacX will be available from authorized Apple resellers in August.
If you don’t have System 7 yet and really dislike working with floppies, you can get it on CD-ROM from the May 27 issue of Metatec’s NAUTILUS, but the catch is that you have to subscribe to Nautilus’s monthly CD-ROM magazine, which is a tad pricey at $9.95 per issue, although they do say that you can pay $19.95 for a single issue. You will find a second catch in that you will need a CD-ROM player. If neither the cost nor the hardware limit you, you might want to check out NAUTILUS. I haven’t see too many issues, not having a CD-ROM drive regularly, but I do approve of electronic publishing.
Jackie Promes, Apple — 408/974-3609
Mary Vaughn, Metatec — 614/761-2000
This is absolutely no good. It must stop, and soon! Companies have begun to release Windows utilities that don’t exist as a higher life form on the Mac. Sheesh, how will we Mac chauvinists maintain our self respect? Ah, well, it’s probably good for us all.
A standard piece of equipment on the Amiga and on certain Atari computers is the so-called "blitter" chip, which handles the graphics drawing. Did you ever wonder how those machines handle such impressive graphics? Well now you know. Do you wonder why the Mac and PC-clones don’t have blitter chips? Me too. Weitek recently announced a User Interface Controller chip that intercepts graphics calls and processes them in the fast hardware rather than using Windows’s own sluggish software. Much like a math coprocessor, which intercepts all the math calls and speeds them up, the Weitek chip should significantly increase the speed with which Windows draws the screen. Some operations speed up 25 times – other only four times, but even still, that amount of speed will help make Windows more usable.
The Mac doesn’t suffer from super-slow graphics performance because the Apple designed its OS for graphics, but Weitek is apparently talking to Apple as well. Heck, System 7 zooms windows slowly on the slower machines, and a blitter board would smooth out some of those rough spots. Murph Sewall also mentioned that Apple is looking at Edsun’s CEG (Continuous Edge Gradation, I think) chips, which make a standard VGA display look like it’s working in 24-bit color. Add that chip to the Mac, and it would spruce up all those Apple 13" color monitors in 8-bit mode that will be running multimedia applications now that the QuickTime multimedia extensions are out. I can’t remember how much the Edsun chip costs, though it was under $200 or so, but the Weitek chip should be showing up in PC boards for about $150. I think Apple should jump at both of these technologies, because I see no point in wasting CPU power on something that specialized hardware can handle. To be fair, Ergon just announced the XLR8-IT accelerator board for Windows. It does exactly what boards built with the Weitek chip will do, but costs a great deal more at $499.
Probably the biggest news in the Windows world in the last few weeks has been Visual Basic from Microsoft. Put simply, it is a version of Basic along with a screen painter tool that allows programmers to quickly create full-fledged Windows applications. Only time will tell, but VB applications apparently run faster and look more professional than equivalent HyperCard applications. This has led to the release of a number of tools from third parties that add functionality to VB. Already you can get SQL tools, graphic tools, special effects, communications tools, financial and scientific functions, terminal emulation tools, and neural network tools to simplify your development efforts. Visual Basic lists for $199 and should ship in the next week or so. From what everyone has said (there’s only been one lukewarm article in the magazines – everyone else has been drooling over this program), if you wish to develop in Windows, you’d do well to take a look at what Visual Basic can do for you, especially since you might be able to sell VB programs, unlike HyperCard (or anything else) stacks. Two features that don’t yet exist in Visual Basic are support for Object Embedding and Linking (OLE) and Microsoft’s Multimedia Extensions, although Microsoft has promised them for a future release.
Merasoft has announced an interesting program that combines the best features of QuicKeys with the ability to sit in the background and look for certain conditions. E’vent Manager can add application-specific hotkeys to any application, locate files on a hard disk (a useful feature under Windows), launch programs, add an autosave feature to any application, and save and restore working environments of multiple applications and documents. The program’s main claim to fame is that it can watch for certain events, such a pattern of keystrokes or application launches, and perform predefined actions, such as opening documents or changing default settings. Merasoft claims that creating the conditions requires no programming experience since users can merely select the statements they want from a list of acceptable commands. In my experience, that sort of programming (because that’s what it is, call it what you will) is clumsy but effective.
The final application that will inspire some jealousy in Mac folks is Relate from ObjectSoft. Relate allows users to create links between applications, inserting a small icon at the source end of the link. Clicking on the icon brings up a list of links from which the user can select the appropriate link, which will then open the document defined as the destination end of the link. I haven’t seen this program, so I don’t know how well ObjectSoft implemented it in ToolBook (anyone want to try doing this in HyperCard 2.1?), but I suspect that the entire utility rests on how well Relate integrates into the rest of the environment. Still, it’s a neat idea and one that is at the heart of Ted Nelson’s Xanadu system, although links are bidirectional in Xanadu, which is far more powerful.
Ergon — 601/856-4968
Microsoft — 800/426-9400
Merasoft — 801/225-9951
ObjectSoft — 201/930-0582
PC WEEK — 27-May-91, Vol. 8, #21, pg. 17, 31
PC WEEK — 20-May-91, Vol. 8, #20, pg. 5
InfoWorld — 27-May-91, Vol. 13, #21, pg. 28, 31
InfoWorld — 20-May-91, Vol. 13, #20, pg. 5, 19, 34
InfoWorld — 06-May-91, Vol. 13, #18, pg. 1
InfoWorld — 18-Mar-91, Vol. 13, #11, pg. 13
One of the neatest capabilities of Finder 7 is the ability to put anything (including an alias) in the Apple menu by simply putting that item in the Apple Menu Items folder in the System Folder. Most people have put DAs there, and lots more immediately included aliases to their favorite applications, but what some people don’t realize is that you can also put folders in that menu. When you select the item in the menu, the folder opens up. That’s how Apple implemented the Control Panels item – it’s merely a folder in the System Folder that’s hardwired to appear in the Apple menu.
Of course once you realize that you can get to folders via the Apple menu, you (well, I did and a friend did, and lots of others did anyway) immediately think, "I wonder if that could be a hierarchical menu that would list the items inside the folder?" Now as much as I find hierarchical menus a pain on occasion (especially before I cleaned my mouse so well that it could pass a white glove test), I can see the utility of hierarchical menus for often-used folders. I assume that Jorg Brown and Now Software will enhance Now Menus to provide this capability, but I haven’t heard anything from them about future products yet. What has been bouncing around on the nets for a while is a discussion about a program called Hierarchical Apple Menu, or HAM. (Forgive me if I wallow briefly in a pigpun.) HAM is written by Chris Derossi of Apple and will provide either four or six levels of hierarchical menu from folders when it is released sometime in June. I imagine that many levels of hierarchy would be truly difficult to navigate, but it might be easier than working your way through that many nested folders.
The only thing that Chris has yet to decide is how to distribute HAM, shareware or commercial. Apparently he wants to get the widest possible distribution for HAM, and there’s been some debate as to which method would provide it. Since two other commercial products will probably provide similar functionality (Now Menus should, and Connectix’s HandOff II 2.2 will include a similar utility called SuperMenu), I think that the shareware method will gain the widest distribution. I suspect that it will not earn as much money as a commercial release, but then again, commercial software is a lot more work and requires tech support and more frequent updates than shareware products generally do. All in all, commercial software is more work but has greater financial rewards. For those wondering how shareware would work, considering that Chris works for Apple, I gather from the net conversations that Claris would have nothing to do with it (which makes sense, since Claris doesn’t sell any utilities), and Apple too is completely uninvolved with the project.
People have said that HAM stands to be the most powerful of the three utilities, probably in terms of the number of levels deep it goes. It’s unclear how deep Now Menus or SuperMenu will go, but a shareware HAM combined with the free Understudy (which can allow certain applications to open files from other applications from the Finder) from Larry Rosenstein of Apple could damage some of Hand Off’s popularity. I haven’t used Hand Off II, but the current version of Understudy requires ResEdit for configuration, not exactly an ideal user interface. Still, it’s hard to beat free (although the Hand Off II upgrade will be free to registered users).
Connectix — 800/950-5880 — 415/324-0727
Ian C. Evans — [email protected]
Dean Yu — [email protected]
Alexander M. Rosenberg — [email protected]
Richard C. Long — [email protected]
Kiran Wagle — [email protected]
Dennis Cohen — [email protected]
Leonard Rosenthol — [email protected]
Alan D. — [email protected]
MacWEEK — 04-Jun-91, Vol. 5, #21, pg. 15
Anyone who has programmed on the Mac has used Inside Mac (OK, maybe a few bright people can just guess at the specifics, but everyone else looks it up). Inside Mac is pretty clumsy these days, with six volumes and an index that’s required to figure out where the information lives, often in several books. Apple has finally announced that it is cleaning up and rewriting Inside Mac. I’m sure it will end up on paper, most things still do, unfortunately, but Apple will also make it available on CD-ROM. If you’re interested in giving feedback, Apple is taking comments, suggestions, and errata from the current Inside Macintosh (as well as survey responses from a survey I didn’t want to reprint in its entirety) at [email protected] Apple welcomes comments on the electronic versions, the book version, and any other related topics.
I recently heard some nastiness from inside Apple/Claris. HyperCard was transferred to Claris for marketing because Apple felt it wasn’t part of the system software. Claris claimed at the Developer’s Conference that Apple and Claris co-developed and co-tested HyperCard 2.1, but the truth of the matter is that Claris only helped out with the testing. HyperCard 2.1 was engineered entirely by some of the people who worked on HyperCard 2.0, none of whom were, are, or will be at Claris. To me that means that we’re going to wait a long time to see another upgrade of HyperCard if only because the new HyperCard team at Claris will have to come up to speed on the program. This is the sort of problem that crops up with reorganizing all the time. I’ve also heard that an extra feature in the Report dialogs was supposed to be "removed" because Claris didn’t have time to include it in the manual. Since there weren’t any programmers working on 2.1, no one noticed the extra feature, but if you’ve got 2.1, check around in the report printing stuff for an undocumented feature.
Finally, Bill Leue wondered if there was any way to use System 7 file sharing protocols over a standard modem. The closest way to accomplish this is Shiva’s NetModem, which allows a standard modem to dial into a LocalTalk network. A real solution would be similar to SLIP (Serial Line Internet Protocol) but would use AppleTalk protocols rather than TCP/IP, thus bringing up SLAP (Serial Line AppleTalk Protocols) as the acronym. I’ve heard that this is very possible, though a decent speed over standard modems may take some doing. Apparently, Apple even plans to add this capability directly into a later release of System 7. It should join features like the new printing architecture and the AppleScript language in 7.x, where x is greater than one. x equals one is probably reserved for the bugs that are slowly cropping up, although most of them have been cosmetic so far (like the floppy icon not disappearing quickly when thrown in the trash).