Macworld Expo news continues to fill this issue, with our look at a number of products and booths that caught our attention. Adam also relates what’s going on with his spam, and with the Habeas anti-spam service. And Geoff Duncan looks at Apple’s recent Logic-derived audio application announcements. In the news, Apple posts a $63 million first quarter profit, Research Design’s Papyrus becomes free, and AppleWorks and iCal receive minor updates. Be sure to enter our DealBITS drawing for a copy of Cocoatech’s Path Finder!
Celebrating Martin Luther King Day — Here in the U.S., it’s a national holiday – Martin Luther King Day. Despite the fact that offices and schools are closed, it’s not a holiday that invites the drawing inward of many other holidays. Instead, Martin Luther King Day is meant as a day for community service initiatives and programs promoting interracial cooperation: a day on, not a day off. However you choose to observe the holiday, and whether or not you live in the U.S., I recommend spending, as I did, a few moments listening to Martin Luther King’s own words, as archived by The Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University. [ACE]
Apple Posts $63 Million First Quarter Profit — Apple Computer posted a $63 million profit on just over $2 billion in revenue for its first fiscal quarter of 2004, boosted by strong sales of laptop computers and increasingly obligatory iPod digital music players. Apple’s gross margin was 26.7 percent, with international sales accounting for 44 percent of the quarter’s revenue (although the strong Euro boosted Apple’s sales in Europe). Apple also tucked some money away: the company now has just under $4.8 billion in the bank.
Apple says it shipped 829,000 Macs and 730,000 iPods during the quarter – and could have sold more iPods if it had been able to keep up with demand. More than 200,000 of the Macs sold were iBooks and 195,000 were PowerBook G4 systems. Both figures are substantially higher than totals for a year ago and lend some credence to CEO Steve Jobs’s claim that 2003 would be "the year of the laptop." Sales of other lines – eMac/iMac and Power Mac – weren’t as strong as in the third quarter, although the introduction of Power Mac G5 systems let the high-end systems show a year-to-year gain, where iMac and eMac sales declined both year-to-year and quarter-to-quarter. [GD]
AppleWorks Updates Span Platforms — Apple has released a trio of minor updates for AppleWorks, its integrated productivity software that includes word processor, spreadsheet, page layout, graphics, database, and presentation capabilities, as well as compatibility with Microsoft Office file formats. Three updates are available, depending on your operating system and version. AppleWorks 6.2.9 for Mac OS X adds support for mice with scroll wheels, improves printing, and enhances the reliability of the presentation environment. AppleWorks 6.2.8 for Mac OS 8.1 through 9.x and the Mac OS X update resolve issues with Web-based templates and clip art on networks using proxy servers. AppleWorks 6.2.1 for Windows, as well as both of the Macintosh updates, improve the spreadsheet module.
All three updates, available for free to users of AppleWorks 6.0 or later for Macintosh or 6.1 or later for Windows, are available online. The Macintosh downloads are 16 MB, and the Windows download is 6 MB. [MHA]
iCal 1.5.2 Released — Apple today updated iCal, its calendar and personal organizer application, to version 1.5.2. The Info drawer is now optionally detachable, you can assign alarms or add notes to To-Do items, and alarms now include an option to display a message 15 minutes before the alarm goes off. Also new is the capability to publish and subscribe to calendars on servers located behind firewalls, as well as more keyboard shortcuts. iCal supports events in multiple time zones, and has received other stability and performance improvements. iCal 1.5.2 is available now via Software Update, or as a 6.3 MB download. [JLC]
Give Me Death and Give Me Liberty — Research Software Design’s bibliography and note-taking program Papyrus was reviewed four years ago in "Best Footnote Forward: Papyrus 8.0.7" in TidBITS-514; a couple of years later, development ceased. (Coincidence? We hope not!) Now the program has new life: the developer, Dave Goldman, is giving it away free, and you can download it at RSD’s new Web site. Papyrus runs under System 7 or higher, including Mac OS X’s Classic environment. [MAN]
Could there be a more difficult program to compete with than the Finder? After all, it’s not just ubiquitous, but for most people, it is the Macintosh interface. But the Finder has its shortcomings, and if you’d like to have a slew of tweaky options and capabilities that the Finder doesn’t provide, Cocoatech’s Path Finder is worth a look. It can show the full contents of many file types in its preview drawer, provide a drop stack to simplify moving items between folders while in column view, put a Trash on your Desktop, and a lot more. It also builds in numerous common utilities, including a PDF viewer, a terminal, an image editor and viewer, and a disk image creator, among others. For lots of folks, Path Finder is serious competition for the Finder.
The volume of spam I receive has continued to rise inexorably, to the point where I’m averaging between 500 and 600 spam messages per day, and that’s just what’s getting past our rather conservative server-side filters (including the MAPS RBL+). Luckily, Michael Tsai’s SpamSieve is doing a swell job of identifying and extracting the spam from my Eudora mailboxes; it’s currently 99.6 percent correct in identifying spam. Unfortunately, in that remaining 0.4 percent of mistakes are some 230 false positives I’ve manually identified since September 2003, and although the likelihood of SpamSieve erroneously identifying good mail as spam continues to drop, it’s not perfect.
I say all this in part to raise the alarm that where I am today with receiving spam, many of you will be in six months or a year. It’s gotten to the point where just retrieving the spam has become a burden if I’m traveling and don’t have a fast Internet connection. Also, I can no longer sort through my Junk mailbox for false positives; pulling a good message or two from a few thousand spam messages is just too hard and time-consuming. As a word of advice then, please try to write normally to make sure your mail to me doesn’t look like spam to a Bayesian filter; I simply can’t guarantee I’ll see anything that SpamSieve identifies as spam.
Interestingly, SpamSieve missed a few more messages than it usually does this week. When I checked to see why, I realized it was because I had set SpamSieve to honor the Habeas headers that can be used legally only by legitimate senders (such as TidBITS), but some spammer had forged those headers to sneak past SpamSieve and similar Habeas-specific filters. Habeas issued a statement saying that they were aggressively tracking down the spammer (the spam itself appears to have originated from a distributed set of zombie PCs taken over in a past virus attack). Despite the fact that Habeas has reportedly successfully sued some spammers in the past, this seems to be the most flagrant misuse of the Habeas headers so far. Habeas must bring down this spammer – and any that try the same trick – in a timely fashion to maintain user confidence in the Habeas headers as a mark of legitimate mail.
Although we have the necessary technologies, ranging from Bayesian analysis and whitelists to challenge-response and real-time blackhole lists, to control aspects of spam at an individual user or even individual server level, the vast variety of email systems that speak the basic language of open, trusting SMTP has ensured that spam will overwhelm increasingly large chunks of the Internet email infrastructure. Our older mail servers are staggering under the load even now, and I cringe every time I hear the horror stories from one of my ISPs about their Herculean efforts to keep legitimate mail flowing while under the onslaught of thousands of zombie spam-delivering machines.
There are no easy solutions. In an upcoming issue, Brady Johnson will give us a look at the effect the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 will likely have on the volume of spam. There are various Internet standards organizations working on the problem as well, but from my discussions with John Levine of the Anti-Spam Research Group of the Internet Research Task Force, they have no magic bullets in the works. And for all of us who think we have the answer (the so-called "Final Ultimate Solution to the Spam Problem," or FUSSP), it’s worth reading the final link: "You Might Be An Anti-Spam Kook If…," whose author’s tongue was only partially lodged in his cheek.
At last week’s NAMM show in Anaheim, CA, Apple Computer announced a repackaging of its Logic professional audio applications to follow a two-tiered approach, just like Apple’s Final Cut video editing products. At the high end, the $1,000 Logic Pro 6 is a rebundling of Logic Platinum 6, plus software instruments and audio-processing plug-ins which were previously sold separately. Meanwhile, the $300 Logic Express 6 targets students, educators, and the semi-pro/serious amateur market by offering a smaller (though not inconsiderable) collection of professional quality tools, effects, and capabilities at a lower price. If users need more capabilities, Logic Express projects can be shifted over to Logic Pro. By simplifying the Logic line – which most recently included Logic Audio, Logic Gold, and Logic Platinum plus a small herd of separate add-on software packages, all offered in various combinations – Apple hopes to clarify its pro-level audio products, avoid confusion with its new audio-oriented Soundtrack and GarageBand, and parallel its offerings in pro-level video software. Apple says the new Logic projects will be available this March.
It’s Only Logical — It’s difficult to discuss audio products without getting into impenetrable technical specs for both audio software and hardware, and encountering partisanship which makes the Mac versus Windows debate seem civil and witty. But for the uninitiated, the Logic applications enable users to assemble and mix audio and MIDI sequences, as well as apply sophisticated audio processing and effects. These are the kinds of programs used by professional recording studios and engineers to produce music, soundtracks, and other audio-related projects. (Similar products on the Mac currently include Avid/Digidesign’s various Pro Tools offerings, Mark of the Unicorn’s Digital Performer, and Steinberg’s Cubase products.) Apple acquired Logic when it bought the German company Emagic in mid-2002 and converted it to a wholly owned subsidiary.
Generally, Logic Express 6 can be described as a somewhat stripped-down version of Logic Pro 6. Logic Express 6 supports fewer tracks, buses, and input channels (basically, the number of real-time parts which can be managed separately in an audio project), and lower digital audio resolution (24-bit/96 KHz, which is essentially DVD-quality audio, whereas high-end projects sometimes use 24-bit/192 KHz, which Logic Pro 6 supports). Logic Express 6 also lacks the capability to mix to surround sound and includes far fewer effects and software instruments. That said, Logic Express offers substantial capabilities, many of which weren’t available in any form in the digital audio world only a few years ago: with knowledge and creativity (and work!), users can certainly produce professional-quality projects with Logic Express 6. Logic Pro 6, conversely, offers flexibility and extended capabilities needed in higher-end professional settings like recording and video scoring studios, where having unlimited tracks, handling heaps of plug-in effects, mixing to 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound, and choosing from a wide variety of software instruments are sometimes of great importance.
Twang that Drum — At NAMM, Apple also previewed new software which will work with future versions of Logic. Two are software instruments: Sculpture and UltraBeat. Sculpture synthesizes the waveform of a vibrating string or bar (and, naturally, enables the user to twiddle all sorts of parameters like the size and material of the item, its environment, and how it’s being excited – bowed, struck, maybe even wiggled with a magnetic field.) It might seem that something like Sculpture is a neat way to replace acoustic instruments like a violin or vibes with software equivalents, but that’s not true: more likely, Sculpture will be most useful creating fodder for richer, never-before-heard sounds which have some characteristics of real world items.
UltraBeat starts from a series of drum "voices" and enables the user to apply different types of synthesis and processing to create new sounds: some might sound remarkably like real-world instruments, and some aren’t going to sound even remotely percussive. Percussionists face no new threat here: UltraBeat is most likely to appeal to producers of various forms of electronic music.
My Loop Goes to Eleven — Apple also previewed GuitarAmp, a full-featured guitar amp simulator which will integrate directly with Logic. (Presumably, a stripped-down version provides the amp simulations in Apple’s GarageBand and GarageBand Jam Pack.) The idea of an amp emulator is that you plug a guitar into your audio interface directly, and use GuitarAmp to simulate the sound of your guitar played through various types of amps – and you can change and modify your choices long after recording a guitar track, if you like. (Yes, the sounds and designs of guitar amps vary enormously, and amp emulators are easier to cart around than dozens of amp and speaker cabinet combinations.) Apple says its models represent the best-known guitar amps and offer "impeccable" emulations, enabling users to choose various speaker cabinets, microphone placement techniques, and various front-panel controls. The main difficulty GuitarAmp may face is that it’s not a new player in this arena: amp emulators have been around for several years, with companies like Line 6, DigiTech, Yamaha, and others regularly releasing amp emulators which are easier to haul to a gig (and cheaper!) than a Mac. Moreover, while amp emulators have the advantage of flexibility and convenience, in professional circles they’re not universally loved: many players and engineers who want good guitar tone would rather use a real amp in a real room, consenting to amp emulators mainly due to time or budget constraints. But for project studios and home recording, they can be a godsend – particularly because they can produce screaming loud guitar sounds without disturbing the neighbors.
Apple also announced that future versions of Logic will support Apple Loops, which seem as if they will be available in two varieties. The first is basically a loopable bit of audio and/or music: the Apple Loops which ship with GarageBand to provide backing and rhythm tracks are a good example. Presumably, future versions of Logic will be able to search through libraries of these tracks (based on metadata about instrumentation, genre, and even mood), import them, and manipulate them directly (apply effects, expand or shrink them, etc.). Apple also commented on a "software instrument" form of Apple Loops which, in addition to raw audio and metadata, may contain MIDI performance data and processing parameters. In theory, one could change the instrumentation and some sonic characteristics of these Apple Loops within Logic.
Look Upon My Works, Ye Mighty — With its NAMM announcements, Apple will be offering a semi-consolidated line of music-making products aimed at amateurs and hobbyists (GarageBand), videographers needing to do some audio processing (Soundtrack), students, educators, and mid-range users (Logic Express), and high-end professionals (Logic Pro). Open questions include how third-party developers will respond to Apple’s pro audio offerings, and what impact that response will have on the professional audio market. (How many users of Adobe Premiere do you think are happy with Apple’s foray into the professional video market?) With Apple developing both Mac OS X and pro audio applications for Mac OS X, companies like Avid, Mark of the Unicorn, and Steinberg may have to seriously question seriously development of their pro-level audio applications for the Mac. (Pro Tools and Cubase have strong Windows versions products already; Digital Performer has always been Mac-only.)
The situation is confounded by Mac OS X. Until Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar, professional audio under Mac OS X was essentially limited to stony silence occasionally punctuated by irritating squawks, kernel panics, and tumbleweeds blowing through the center of town: the operating system simply lacked many capabilities required by the pro audio market. For many people – myself included – even Mac OS X 10.3 Panther is still not a viable platform for pro audio work due to lack of developer support. (In turn, developers have quietly noted it’s hard to support an operating system with critical, unresolved issues in its audio architecture.) I know several studios which are still running Mac OS 9 and hoping their computers don’t fail before a conversion to Mac OS X is feasible (I got a panicked call from one several weeks ago); similarly, I know of studios which have abandoned the Mac and studios which have reverted back to Mac OS 9 from Mac OS X due to insurmountable problems with allegedly working solutions. Logic itself hasn’t been immune from problems under Mac OS X, but, being owned by Apple, it’s clearly in a privileged position as far as resolving issues with Mac OS X. And Apple, naturally, has more interest in enabling its own products than helping other companies compete against them.
I, for one, hope Apple’s efforts with Mac OS X and Logic are aimed at re-establishing the Macintosh as the premiere platform for producing digital music, promoting a healthy industry, and enabling a variety of solutions both from Apple and third parties. Otherwise, Apple may well find itself the king of all the lone and level sands it can survey.
Apple may set the agenda for Macworld Expo with Steve Jobs’s leadoff keynote, and a few developers may receive a few minutes of keynote time (as did Microsoft’s Roz Ho, who said at the end of her presentation that – take note for the future – "we’re looking forward to another 20 great years of working together"), but many of the most interesting products are to be found only on the show floor. Here are a few that caught our eyes.
Schweet! If you own a Power Mac G4, or a blue & white Power Mac G3, take a look at GeeThree’s $130 Sweet Multiport, which uses one of your Mac’s open front drive bays and an empty PCI slot to provide a slew of front-mounted ports, including 2 FireWire ports, 1 USB port, and a 5-in-1 memory card reader. The PCI card connects to your existing FireWire and USB ports, but provides two more FireWire and USB ports as well. The memory card reader supports CompactFlash, IBM Microdrive, Memory Stick, Secure Digital, and MultiMediaCard formats; the only format not supported is SmartMedia, which is in decline because it maxes out at a paltry 128 MB. The Sweet Multiport is compatible with Mac OS 9.1 and later, and Mac OS X 10.1 and later. No drivers are necessary, and the memory card reader works with iPhoto. [ACE]
Griffin Gadgets — The Griffin Technology booth has become a required stop at every Macworld Expo, since Griffin pulls out all the stops to showcase neat technology they’re working on, even if it’s not yet available. This year, Griffin’s Andrew Green showed us the SightLight, a clever little LED-based light that fits around an iSight camera to improve your look in iChat AV video chats. It has several brightness settings and is powered from FireWire. It’s due out in a few months for $40. Also cool was the iTalk, another pre-release device that turns your iPod into a voice recorder. The Belkin iPod Voice Recorder hasn’t gotten rave reviews for quality, and although some of that is limited by the iPod itself, the iTalk may prove better. It’s also $40 and due out in April; if you pre-order now you can save $5. [ACE]
Mac Answering Machines — Short for "phone link," Phlink is a new product from Ovolab, an Italian company staffed by veteran Mac developers Alberto Ricci and Alessandro Levi Montalcini. Phlink consists of a small USB device that plugs into your Mac and into your phone line, and custom software that turns your Mac into a flexible answering machine and automated response system. You can create multiple voicemail boxes, store all the messages on your Mac, and even forward them automatically via email. Automated response systems can be essential for businesses, but I could see Phlink being a ton of fun for individuals too: "Press 1 to leave a message. Press 2 to start global thermonuclear war. Press 3 if you’re my mother." Phlink can tie AppleScript-based actions to each response, use speech synthesis to provide feedback or responses to callers, and, since it understands caller ID, Phlink can play custom greetings or trigger different actions based on who is calling. Small offices and households could put Phlink to great use, but the audience that might benefit the most from Phlink’s capabilities would be students sharing a house, thanks to support for multiple voicemail boxes for each resident, and email forwarding for those who might not be home much of the time. Phlink costs $150 and requires Mac OS X 10.2 or later.
Phlink isn’t alone, and Parliant Technology, makers of the PhoneValet telephone utility, also announced PhoneValet Message Center, an add-on that integrates with the PhoneValet call log to provide multiple voicemail boxes, call recording (complete with automatic notification for the other party), notes about stored recordings for easy searching, and more. PhoneValet Message Center supports multiple lines and works even when no user is logged in to Mac OS X. Parliant expects PhoneValet Message Center to ship within the first three months of 2004; you can pre-order now for $200, or receive PhoneValet now for $130 with an additional $70 charged when PhoneValet Message Center ships. Upgrades for existing PhoneValet users can also be pre-ordered for $70. [ACE]
Most Effective Demo — It’s not always easy to demonstrate your product on the Macworld Expo show floor – just ask some of the audio and speaker vendors whose gear gets drowned out by the surrounding noise. But Apple hit on a fun and effective way to demo iChat AV: a line of iSight-equipped Macs featured live video chats with Apple call center employees in Sacramento, CA and Austin, TX. You could put on a pair of headphones and converse with someone hundreds of miles away to get a sense of how well iChat works (including the full-screen video mode). Despite the surrounding noise, it was easy to carry on a conversation through the iSight’s microphone. When a Mac became unoccupied, the employees held up laser-printed signs that read, "Hello from Austin, Texas!" or "Put on the headphones!" [JLC]
Wi-Fi Tunes — At last year’s Macworld Expo, we highlighted the Ethernet-only SLIMP3 music player from Slim Devices and the Wi-Fi/Ethernet HomePod, designed by Gloo Labs and marketed by MacSense. The SLIMP3 proved to be one of 2003’s hottest geek devices, and Andrew Laurence reviewed it for us in "SLIMP3: MP3, Get Thee to the Hi-Fi" in TidBITS-676. The HomePod didn’t make it out in 2003, but in the interim underwent a complete redesign, so it now looks more like an iPod than a piece of stereo gear and features a backlit LCD screen with an iPod-like interface controlled by a jog wheel. It lets you play your iTunes music on your stereo, streaming it over a wired or wireless network, or playing it locally on small speakers built into the case. MacSense is finally shipping the HomePod for $250.
Slim Devices hasn’t been idle all this time either, and late in 2003, they released Squeezebox, the next generation of the SLIMP3 player in a sleeker form factor. Squeezebox comes in both Ethernet ($250) and Wi-Fi ($300) models, and streams your digital music collection over your network from your Mac, also integrating with iTunes. Which to choose? At the moment, the decision seems to come down primarily to the form factor you prefer, though we hope to be evaluating these devices in the future. [ACE]
Kind of Blue — We love to discover product prototypes at Macworld – devices which may or may not end up for sale, but are being shown in proof-of-concept stage. This year, the device of choice appeared to be audio receivers that enable you to broadcast your music from a computer or iPod to a stereo via Bluetooth wireless networking. Both Griffin Technology and XtremeMac showed off working prototypes. Neither product was shipping, and release dates and final pricing (or even a product name, in the case of Griffin) have not yet been set.
While Bluetooth audio components are intriguing, some of us on the TidBITS staff are hoping the technology ushers in the next logical step: Bluetooth wireless headphones. There are only so many times we’re willing to put up with untangling iPod earbud cables, or snagging them on a drawer knob when standing up from our desks. Of course, while we’re looking ahead to the future, we’d love such a headphone to switch over to act as a wireless headset automatically when our Bluetooth-enabled phones receive calls! [JLC]
Make That Acrobat Sit Down — It’s becoming inevitable that every Macworld Expo brings another interesting product from Greg Scown and Philip Goward of SmileOnMyMac. This time around, they were showing PDFpen, a $30 utility for editing PDFs that offers many of the features found only in the $450 Adobe Acrobat Professional. You can extract pages, crop them, insert text and images (like a scanned signature), and mask the sending information of a fax (received in the company’s PageSender software, for instance) to retransmit it back out. PDFpen requires Mac OS X 10.2.5 or later, and is a 1.6 MB download. [GF]
Toastiest Tchotchke — Kudos to Roxio for their, umm, tongue in cheek giveaway of custom Jelly Belly packets containing jellybeans in buttered toast and jam flavors. We tore ourselves away from debating whether the toast flavor was truly weird in a jellybean to check out the new capabilities in the Toast 6 suite of software, including burning video discs directly from DV camcorders, making slick slideshows from still photos, backup, compression, and encryption of data, and sharing of CD and DVD players across a network. Toast 6 costs $100, with $10 (download) and $20 (boxed product) rebates available at the moment. [ACE]
Inexplicable Exhibitors — Sure, Quark didn’t come to Macworld Expo, but they never do these days. More disappointing was the lack of the humorous Mac-unrelated organizations that didn’t make repeat appearances from last year, including Andersen Windows ("The best windows for Mac users!") and the IRS ("Free audits; just slide your badge here!"). In their place was Discover (the credit card company) offering as a signup enticement – get this – a free digital watch. All we could think of was the line from the late Douglas Adams about how humans were so amazingly primitive that they still thought digital watches were a pretty neat idea. Another head-scratcher came from the appearance of Acura, which had parked several cars inside Moscone Center and was proudly displaying signs labeling Acura the official automotive sponsor of Macworld Expo, or something equally incomprehensible. Next year: Tinactin, the official anti-fungal cream of Macworld Expo! [ACE]
The Power Browser — Safari’s a pretty neat Web browser, but we’re watching the Omni Group’s forthcoming OmniWeb 5, which promises to meld the rendering speed of Apple’s WebKit framework (which powers Safari) with a slew of fabulous browsing features we’ve been agitating for years. OmniWeb 5 will store and index the full text of every Web page you visit, enabling you to search your personal browsing history far more fully than is possible in any browser now. It can also use the full text cache to tell when page content changes, providing you with a collection of changed sites to visit quickly and easily. And it tracks how many times you visit every page and presents you with a collections of most-visited sites, much along the lines of the iTunes most-played playlist. Then there is tab support, in a drawer instead of across the top of the page, site-specific preferences (so you can block pop-ups on most, but not all, sites), and workspaces that remember and automatically load a specific set of pages. Add to this an auto-complete feature that looks at the full URL and the title of the page, and you have a browser that will be well worth the $30 Omni will charge when it ships in a few months. This is the sort of competition we like to see for Apple’s bundled applications; users win when each developer tries to outdo the other. [ACE]
Share and Share Alike… Via USB — Tired of having to connect your printer or scanner to your laptop every time you want to use them? Or perhaps you want to share them among an entire office? Apple’s AirPort Extreme Base Station introduced USB printer sharing, but Keyspan’s forthcoming USB Server provides sharing of up to four of any standard type of USB devices to an entire network of Macs. You connect to the devices over an Ethernet network, so AirPort-enabled laptops gain full access via the wireless network as well, assuming you’re bridging wireless to Ethernet. The USB Server’s device support includes even USB input devices like mice and keyboards, and USB storage devices like hard drives, although you must first set which Mac should virtually connect to those type of devices (nonetheless, the concept of a shared USB mouse that moves the pointer on every Mac on the network is quite amusing, in a MacHack kind of way). The USB Server will cost $130 when it ships in the first quarter of 2004. [ACE]
FileMaker Synchronization — Imagine you need to share a set of FileMaker databases with a set of colleagues, but you’re not all connected to the same network to use a shared server. WorldSync’s new SyncDeK product solves this problem by extracting just changed data from a FileMaker database – at the field level, with conflict detection and resolution – packaging it up in an XML file, and replicating it to other users via email. That’s cool, but what excites me is that since SyncDeK is written in Java and uses XML for data interchange, WorldSync could write appropriate plug-ins (or, better yet, publish a public specification on how to do so) to enable synchronization of data within other applications as well. With some effort, SyncDeK could fulfill the promise of a general purpose synchronization engine that Apple’s iSync has so far left relatively empty. [ACE]
Alternative word processors — It’s largely a Word world, but alternatives to Microsoft’s dominant word processor abound on the Mac – depending on what you need, of course. (36 messages)
The Musical Trojan Horse — So was Adam on target with his article about how the iPod and the iTunes Music Store are Apple’s Trojan Horse for introducing the Mac to an entirely new audience? (3 messages)
Recording from vinyl — Is it time to convert your LP records into bits (the digital kind, that is; a sledgehammer will do nicely otherwise)? Readers relate their experiences with various software and hardware solutions, and a musically inclined TidBITS technical editor teaches a short class in importing audio. (11 messages)
Unicode support — Many programs claim they "support Unicode," but how good and how extensive is that support? (5 messages)