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Adam Engst No comments


Stephan Bublava writes, "I think I have found the hidden feature of HyperCard 2.1 (regarding report printing): Just choose "Print Report…" from the File menu with the option key down. The following dialog will show an additional "Save" button. This is new in HyperCard 2.1; it did not work in HyperCard 2.0." [I haven’t gotten my hands on 2.1 to test this yet, but it sounds reasonable. Thanks, Stephan!]

Masato Ogawa has been corresponding with me recently because he’s uploading TidBITS to the largest BBS in Japan, called NIFTY-Serve. Masato says that each issue garners between 50 and 100 readers and mentions that TidBITS may be becoming even more popular in Japan, despite the language barrier. "And in a major Macintosh Magazine, MacPower, the writer of "AOL Top 20," (yes, AOL is America On-Line) explicitly wrote for the TidBITS introduction: "Is there anyone out there to upload them in Japanese BBS?" The subscribers may increase." [Thanks for all you’re doing, Masato, and my apologies if my English is sometimes too obtuse (meaning: dense or confusing :-)).]

Edward Wright rightly writes in a Usenet posting, "Olduvai Software (the manufacturer of VideoPaint and Read-It) is now having a special on both these products. You can get VideoPaint 1.1 for $149 or Read-It 3.0 for $179 by calling Olduvai directly at 800/822-0772. You also get a free T-shirt and overnight delivery, plus a one-year (!) money-back guarantee."

Information from:
Stephan Bublava — [email protected]
Masato Ogawa — [email protected]
Edward Wright — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments


Yay! I finally upgraded to System 7 golden a few days ago. I’d been messing around with one of the beta versions for a while, but that ended when I destroyed my hard disk briefly trying to recover some space from a partition using a version of Silverlining that didn’t support System 7 disks. It wasn’t pleasant, but I had backups of everything other than the System 7 partition. QuicKeys 2.1, the second of two necessary upgrades, finally came, and that was the last thing standing in my way. First, I had to get Silverlining 5.3 since 5.22 was the culprit in whomping on my disk. That came a week or so ago. Then I needed QuicKeys 2.1 because although it seems vaguely foolish to depend on a macro program, I have all of my mail programs set to connect in the middle of the night and QuicKeys coordinates them.

QuicKeys 2.1 includes a few nifty special features that I hadn’t heard about before, but which will help in System 7. They are enclosed in a single QuicKeys extension (that’s an extension to QuicKeys, not what used to be called an INIT) called System 7 Specials. You can define QuicKeys for turning Balloon Help on and off and toggling it, for cycling to the next or previous application (many people were irritated by the new MultiFinder menu that replaced the old click-to-cycle MultiFinder icon), and for starting and stopping file sharing. Of course, if you’re in a frugal mode, shareware alternatives exist. You can get Help Meister to turn your balloons on and off, and Just Click will turn the MultiFinder menu back into a icon cycler, if that’s the correct term. Both should be available at your local purveyor of fine shareware.

The Microlytics Word Finder thesaurus DA has been one of the most notable programs that conflicts with System 7 because it comes with Word 4.0 to make up for Word’s lack of a thesaurus. Unfortunately it’s keyed to Word so, in theory, you cannot use it while in any program other than Word. In System 7, since Apple changed the way the system handles DAs, Word Finder no longer works, complaining constantly that you aren’t using it in Word. If I remember correctly, WriteNow includes a similar thesaurus DA with a similar protection scheme, although I don’t know if it’s the same one or if it has the same problem. The solution? Get the latest version of ResEdit or the Font/DA Mover and install Word Finder into a copy of Word. You can do this in ResEdit 2.1 by copying all the Word Finder resources into Word. In the Font/DA Mover (I think the latest version is 4.1, supposedly available only online – try, just hold down the option key when clicking Open… to open the Word application. I suppose if you don’t have ResEdit and can’t find the latest Font/DA Mover, you can boot under System 6 and use the older Font/DA Mover.

A related solution that will not work in this particular instance, but which may work for other DA conflicts is a tiny little application called Extra DAs, which I just submitted to sumex and comp.binaries.mac. All it does is provide an application shell that can hold desk accessories. When you run the application, those DAs appear in the Apple menu when that application is in the forefront. I suppose it could be handy for keeping a set of DAs available on demand as well. Add DAs to Extra DAs with ResEdit or the Font/DA Mover in the same as discussed above. Extra DAs was programmed by Glenn Chappell based on Ian Chai’s idea and is free.

Information from:
CE propaganda
Donald R. Proctor — [email protected]
Dane Cantwell — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

Videoconferencing Thoughts

Videoconferencing is one of those nice ideas that has never much caught on because it’s so pricey. However, with the terrorist scare during the Gulf unpleasantness, lots of executive types suddenly didn’t feel too much like flying, evidently placing a fairly high price on their lives since they turned to videoconferencing in droves. The reason for videoconferencing’s high cost is limited bandwidth. Transmitting the equivalent of two television shows in real time so both can react to the other takes a lot of bandwidth, and bandwidth is still expensive. The best way to reduce the bandwidth requirement is with video and audio compression techniques, but to keep everything operating in real time (as opposed to virtual time?) the compression must be done in hardware and even then it has to have a fast and tight algorithm to be of any use. All this increases the price of the video coders/decoders, which aren’t cheap to start with.

I’m no expert on what’s involved with videoconferencing, but it seems to me that the standard solutions are using the brute force method. Unfortunately, the brute isn’t large enough. However, if you think about the technologies that we have available today, it wouldn’t be all that hard to whip up a quick and dirty videoconferencing system that wouldn’t need special hardware or software. Consider this. Timbuktu allows two Macs to share screens over a modem link, even in color. Therefore Farallon (and probably the people who do Carbon Copy/Mac) have a pretty good idea how to send commands rather than data across the link. Assuming similar systems on both ends, a command can produce a large amount of data that would take much longer to transmit. Add to the Timbuktu technology (along with a little video wizardry thrown in for realism) the animation capabilities of interFACE, or whatever Bright Star calls their talking head product these days. Most of the time when you’re talking to people they’re just sitting in about the same position, so interFACE could simulate the other person’s head quite well. The one part of my system that doesn’t exist as far as I know is a technology to record sound, compress it tightly, transmit it, and expand on the other end, all while synchronizing with the simulated head. This system wouldn’t be as complete as a true videoconferencing system, but it would be a workable substitute that wouldn’t require several hundred thousand dollars in hardware and connect charges. It probably won’t happen, but it’s not for the lack of innovation consulting on my part.

Back in the real world, a company called PictureTel has shown a prototype videoconferencing system using a IIci or a high-end PC clone. From the sounds of it, PictureTel’s system will do more than just allow two people to see each other and talk at the same time. You should be able to include graphics and other computer-generated information directly, since the entire system is running on a Mac or PC. PictureTel will also be making the coders/decoders for Macs and PCs, presumably for NuBus and the PC buses (ISA, EISA, and MCA). No hurry to get your order in though, PictureTel won’t be going to market with this stuff until 1992 or 1993.

An interesting solution to the bandwidth problem comes from Digital Access Corp., which markets a line of modems called Fracdial. The Fracdial modems allow users to choose how much bandwidth they want, up to the 1.5 megabips speed of a T1 link. The modems accomplish this feat by using multiple digital lines and synchronizing them so the applications on either end think they have a single high-speed line. Sometime this fall the Fracdial modems will get a bridge that will allow videoconferencing for about $2500, which is apparently a lot less than standard videoconferencing bridges. The other feature Digital Access has planned for the Fracdial modems is a direct interface to Unix workstations, which should increase the product’s popularity significantly.

Related articles:
Communications Week — 24-Jun-91, #357, pg. 19, 22

Adam Engst No comments

Disinfectant Update

Apple’s Compatibility Checker erroneously claimed that John Norstad’s incredibly popular virus checking utility, Disinfectant, was up to version 2.5. However, Norstad, ever the nice guy, decided to give Disinfectant a small update to make Apple feel better, so now we have a real Disinfectant 2.5. Little has changed, other than the ability to find the new ZUC C virus from Italy and the MDEF D virus, which probably never made it into public circulation. Neither is nasty or widespread, so don’t get all worried again. Disinfectant will no longer support old 64K ROMs (the Mac 128K and 512K) and all versions of the system before 6.0, which is a bit more common, especially among the double-floppy crowd. Apple’s MPW no longer supports those Macs or systems, so Norstad had no choice in the matter, short of switching development systems. The final two changes include a bug fix for an error that sometimes caused Disinfectant to crash after printing the manual, especially to DeskWriters, and an added manual section dealing with System 7.

Speaking of System 7, there are three rules to keep in mind when dealing with Disinfectant (and I believe these apply to 2.4 as well). (1) Leave the Disinfectant INIT in the System Folder proper. Don’t move it to the Extensions folder. If you are mucking around with moving extensions around, System 7 will try to make you put it in the Extensions folder, but I suspect you could just install a new version from the program to get around that. I personally just got irritated at System 7 and used DiskTop to change the type to something other than INIT, moved it into the System Folder, and then changed the type back to INIT. (2) Disinfectant sometimes prefers to work on a file while not in MultiFinder. Since you can’t shut MultiFinder off in System 7, try rebooting with an old System 6 boot disk (the Disk Tools disk in System 7 is actually a System 6 boot disk) and running Disinfectant again. (3) Don’t try to select anything in the DeskTop folder to be scanned via the get file dialog since Disinfectant may crash or scan the wrong file.

I’m surprised John decided to release 2.5 because I had been under the impression that he was working on 3.0 for the next public release. Disinfectant 3.0 should be pretty cool, what with Balloon help, color icons, icon dropping in the Finder (you can tell when your Mac’s infested when you start finding icon droppings :-)), anti-viral and other events, and correct placement of the Disinfectant Extension (which will no longer have to load last) and the Disinfectant Preferences file. Another feature that everyone will appreciate is an Upgrade command that will allow users to download very small upgrade files and use them to upgrade the entire program, thus saving significantly on download time. As usual, Disinfectant’s fine online manual will be upgraded to include a thorough discussion of viruses in System 7 (the Desktop viruses like WDEF and CDEF will just stop working, for instance).

The only thing Disinfectant won’t do when it comes out later this summer (other than cure the common computer cold) is block infected applications from gaining access to a system via file sharing. Since network volumes are just like any other volume, there is no way, now or in the future, of preventing that. However, Disinfectant will block any virus spreading attempts, so the security breach is not all that major unless you fail to check your hard disk with Disinfectant every now and then.

Information from:
John Norstad — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

MaxAppleZoom Dies?

A large number of people on the nets have reported that the shareware utility MaxAppleZoom has died, although others have yet to notice any ill effects. Unwilling to let it rest in peace, those who have lost it have been trying to figure out what went wrong and why. No one has yet discovered if MaxAppleZoom had a time bomb (it didn’t hurt anything, but just stopped working) or if it’s a strange bug in the program. For those of you who haven’t heard about MaxAppleZoom, it was (I think the past tense is appropriate for the moment) a masterful hack that provided more screen space for the Apple 13" color monitor using certain older Apple video cards. I saw it when it first came out, but at the time I only had an SE/30 internal monitor, and even when I added a color monitor, I doubted that MaxAppleZoom would help my Micron Xceed card. Extra screen real estate was a great attraction for many though, and the program had a devoted following.

MaxAppleZoom was shareware by Naoto Horii of Belgium, and for a while he was on the nets apparently, since Steve Swinnea mentioned having trouble with version 1.1 and after sending in his shareware fee, complaining to Naoto via email and receiving version 1.2 from him. Many people have reported that shareware checks have not been cashed in some months though, so Naoto may have moved on.

The bug, if that’s what it is, is a strange one. Depending on which version of MaxAppleZoom you have, it may cease working in May (1.2) or December (1.31) or just last week (1.3, which is the most common). Even stranger is that the destruct date corresponds with the slot that holds the video card, and you can weasel a few more days from the program by moving your card to a higher slot. Of course, you can set the clock back while MaxAppleZoom loads, and then set it forward again (and supposedly someone even wrote an INIT to do this), but such a solution borders on the definition of "kludge." I’m surprised, partly because no one has found any traces of a time bomb, and partly because it seems strange that a video hack would pay any attention to the date and time. Odd stuff, and I hope we hear from Naoto to clear up the issue.

Perhaps the most disheartening part of this whole deal is that many people who failed to pay the shareware fee are complaining, and those who did pay up like good citizens are suffering the same problems. I suspect that this is a classic shareware failure – even though the program was useful to many, not enough people paid to keep the author interested in supporting it, which leaves the honest folk out in the cold with shrunken screens (better than shrunken heads, I suppose). Interestingly enough, one person reported that Naoto sent him a two-page reply to some video questions on 20-Mar-91 with the return address of Naoto Horii, B.P. 1415, B-1000 Brussels, Belgium, which is the same address listed in the 1.3 readme. This person went on to say that Naoto has always expressed disappointment at the number of people who have registered, giving this quote as literary evidence: "To conclude I wish to thank my less-than-a-handful registered users (I would be quite ashamed to cite their exact number) for their kind and encouraging words." Of course, I may be wrong about MaxAppleZoom being a shareware failure – it’s always possible that poor Naoto was merely savaged by a rogue wombat and didn’t pull through.

Luckily for those who have fallen prey to this bug, Roger L. Mathews of L Products has come up with a hack called MAZ Recharger to get MaxAppleZoom working again. MAZ Recharger is a free extension and supposedly works with all Macs and all versions of MaxAppleZoom, although some people have reported that it may not work on all Macs and it has only been tested with MaxAppleZoom 1.3. MAZ Recharger is available on America Online, and I suspect it will appear on the other online services quickly as well.

Information from:
Nick Wilde — [email protected]
Jim Mueller — JMUELLER%[email protected]
John Nixon — [email protected]
Steve Swinnea — [email protected]
Robert L Mathews — L Products on AOL
Roger L. Long — [email protected]