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Adam Engst No comments


Last week’s issue of TidBITS contained an article about the astronauts on board the space shuttle Atlantis planning to use AppleLink from space to communicate with ground personnel. I commented that, "Unfortunately for us, but fortunately for the astronauts and their sanity, the shuttle’s AppleLink address is being kept confidential." A couple of readers have written to say that they’ve discovered that the address is "Atlantis." I’ll say this… I feel sorry for the real owner of the AppleLink address "Atlantis," because it’s not NASA! Yes, the address exists, but it has been there for a while. No doubt these poor people have been deluged with messages. Please don’t contribute to the problem by writing to them yourself!

TidBITS will have a few roving reporters in Boston this week to report on the Macworld Expo. I’d love to meet some other TidBITS readers (after all, most of the time I’m a reader myself), so if you’re going to be at the Expo, please feel free to leave a message for "Mark H. Anbinder" in the convention center’s message system (you can leave out the "H." if it’ll confuse the people at the message desk).

Don’t forget to look for next week’s Macworld Expo issue, containing lots of info about what was hot at the show.

Below is some material that Adam sent me for inclusion in this week’s MailBITS.

Just before packing up my Mac for Seattle, I received email from Henry Norr of MacWEEK, who was upset with the way I related his comment on the new ROMs issue. Contrary to what I said (due to my misunderstanding his original note), Henry said that he didn’t feel the issue warranted another story at that point, not that he felt the issue was dead. My apologies to Henry and to all of you for muddying the article behind incorrect information. That’s one of the problems with email – short messages with little context are easy to misconstrue. Henry also said in his recent note that not only did he not feel that the issue was dead, but that MacWEEK has continued to pay attention to the matter (by printing a recent letter to the editor) and will continue to do as warranted. Thanks, Henry! I hope that continued attention from TidBITS and MacWEEK will help jolt Apple management into making a policy statement on the issue, as we politely requested in the letter sent to them. See below for another bit on the subject.

In the near future TidBITS will have a new home on America Online. Thanks to Chris Ferino (AFL Ferino) for setting up a TidBITS file area in the Hardware file libraries (keyword: mhw). All new issues will show up there and eventually we’ll have all the older issues there as well. As an added bonus, Chris has agreed to give anyone who writes an entire TidBITS issue a free hour of time on America Online, so send your submissions in to Mark and us (after we’re set up again) if you wish to get that free hour on AOL. If you aren’t sure about how to go about writing an issue, just ask Mark for our basic guidelines – they’re easy to follow.

One of our readers contributes the following about Apple’s clean ROM saga:

Apple published "Macintosh IIci Computer Training" in its Quick Reference Booklet series. The copyright is 1989. On page 23 of this booklet is the beginning of a section titled "User Questions". The second user question listed on that page is: "Is the new ROM universal? That is, will it be incorporated into all Macintosh CPUs?" The answer stated by Apple on that same page: "No. The ROM will be available only on the Macintosh IIci. The features incorporated into the Macintosh IIci ROM, especially including 32-bit addressing, will be made available to the installed base of Macintosh IIx, IIcx, II, SE and SE/30 owners at a later date."

Now what I get from this is that Apple will make the ROM available to the installed base, not that Apple will produce new machines which the installed base can purchase. Also note the listing of the Mac SE – which has never been discussed in the AOL forums as one of the machines that would receive the new ROM. While MODE32 could be construed as making the 512K ROM features available, it does not fulfill making it available to the Mac SE! The 1989 date also shows that Apple knew full well in 1989 that the ROMs were dirty in the pre-Mac IIci CPUs.

You should be able to get the actual booklet at one of the Apple dealers in your area – they probably have it put away some where in a back room or threw it away. A lot of these booklets were produced for the IIci so one should be available. I have two of them – one without the two disks that comes with the booklet.

My statements were made as a lawyer, which I remain, but because I like the Mac so much I no longer have the legal profession as my primary profession.

Information from:
Mark H. Anbinder — [email protected]
Adam C. Engst

Adam Engst No comments

CE Ships Kanji QuickMail

CE Software, Inc., the publisher of QuickMail, QuicKeys2, and a bunch of other neat products, has just announced a new version of QuickMail designed to work with KanjiTalk, Apple’s Japanese version of the Mac operating system. CE worked on the project with a Japanese partner, Software Research Associates, or SRA.

Lots of normal Macintosh programs work fine under KanjiTalk, but a program must be specially designed to take full advantage of KanjiTalk, to allow users to work in Japanese. Because of the large number of characters in the Kanji Japanese writing system, KanjiTalk uses two bytes of the computer’s memory to represent each character, instead of the single byte used to represent a character in the Roman character set, used by most versions of the Mac OS. The screen shots enclosed with the press release distributed by CE recently show that the Kanji product, known as CEQUICKMAIL, cleanly integrates Roman and Kanji text within the same window.

CE has already been distributing versions of QuickMail in languages such as Swedish, German, French, Danish, and Italian, but this is the first two-byte version. According to Paul Miller, the director of CE’s International Department, "The goal of globalization of our products has leaped forward with the support of 2-byte character systems." He anticipates an exploding market for Macintosh networking in Japan. These Iowans are already the leading supplier of network mail software for the Macintosh, with over 350,000 QuickMail users worldwide.

Software Research Associates can be reached at:

1-1-1 Hirakawa-cho
102 Tokyo
Phone: 81 3 3234 2624, Fax: 813 3234 4338
AppleLink: DVJ.SRA.INC

CE Software, Inc. — 515/224-1995 — AppleLink: CESOFTWARE

Information from:
CE propaganda
Sue Nail, CE Software, Inc.

Adam Engst No comments

Notebooks… the Next Generation

Apple is expected to release a series of three computers this October that will be the first Macs that deserve the name "notebook computer." That doesn’t mean, though, that the rest of the industry should hold its collective breath!

Outbound Systems Inc. has had a popular alternative to the heavier, more expensive Macintosh Portable for over a year now, and a special agreement negotiated with Apple allows them to ship Apple ROM chips, taken from used Macs, in Outbound portable computers. Their new product, the Outbound Notebook System, will give impatient Mac users an alternative to this fall’s Apple offerings.

The new six-pound Outbound Notebook System shows quite a bit of promise. It can hold both an internal high density floppy disk drive and an internal hard drive, as opposed to the low-end Apple notebook, which will contain one or the other. A proper notebook, the new Outbound will fold down to 8.5 by 11 inches. I am skeptical of Outbound’s assertion of a new-and-improved pointing device, which looks an awful lot like it’s just an IsoPoint with a new-and-improved name. Given that there’s no room on this machine for a trackball, I suppose the "TrackBar" (their new device) will be a reasonable substitute.

The truly stunning notebook computer in the news this month is NCR’s System 3125, a pen-based 386 portable that weighs less than four pounds. No, it’s not a Mac or a Mac-compatible, but this machine will show us what might be down the road for Mac users.

The 8.5 by 11 inch 3125 has no keyboard, which means there’s lots of room for the 640×480 greyscale liquid crystal display. Instead of typing, the user enters data and controls the system using an included pen, with either GO’s PenPoint operating system, or Microsoft’s competing PenWindows. (The computer comes with one or the other operating system, but not both.) This means the NCR notebook isn’t quite suited to every computing need, but it would certainly be good for data entry tasks such as inventory management, appointment scheduling, and address/phone databases. Of course, computer users who have never liked keyboards will be pleased by the option of using this handwriting-recognizing technology.

What does this mean for the future? Aside from a vague resemblance to Apple’s Knowledge Navigator dream computer (you may have seen the video tapes of the computer that talks to you… and understands spoken commands) the NCR 3125 is really just a rearrangement of existing technology. Sony has been selling their "palmtop" computer, a personal organizer with handwriting recognition technology, for about a year, and of course iconic, windowing operating systems aren’t new. The key to NCR’s product release is the combination… solid handwriting recognition in a real computer that’s light enough and small enough to use anywhere.

Apple’s three upcoming notebook computers are a step toward the same "next generation" category. They are much lighter and smaller than the existing Macintosh Portable models, and when closed at least, are notebook sized. The keyboard on the Macs, though, will mean that Apple will always seem to be behind the pack in notebook technology. I’m not saying that I want to see a Mac without a keyboard… at least not until they can replace it with a method of text entry that’s just as fast and accurate! However, the industry is going to start wondering where Apple’s REAL notebooks are.

NCR Corp. — 513/445-6160 — 800/225-5627
Outbound Systems Inc. — 303/786-9200 — 800/444-4607

Information from:
Outbound propaganda

Related articles:
BYTE — Aug-91, Vol. 16, #8, pg. 37
MacWEEK — 30-Jul-91, Vol. 5, #26, pg. 1

Adam Engst No comments

One Minute Magazine

According to a recent Newsbytes article that a friend found floating around at Apple, KOFY-TV, channel 20 in the San Francisco area, will be broadcasting a one-minute-long "magazine" early in the morning of 1 October. The magazine won’t be a typical TV magazine show, but will be a minute-long montage of still frames of text and pictures, generated on a Macintosh.

The still images of the Future Media StillFrame Edition will go by on the screen far too quickly to be viewed at full speed, but viewers who videotape the broadcast (which will be some time between 1:56 and 2:00 am) can view the magazine frame by frame later on (or the next morning, for those who like to be asleep at 2 am). You’ll need a good TV and a four-head VCR to get a high enough image quality to read the text.

The magazine is being generated by scanning images from H-8 video cameras into the Macintosh, and then laying them into screen-sized pages of text and pictures using page layout software. The text will be no smaller than 24 point, so it can be read from the television image.

I doubt that this will become a popular publishing medium, because it requires some effort from the reader/viewer/user beyond sitting and absorbing. No doubt this initial broadcast will get lots of viewers… but once the novelty wears off, people aren’t likely to bother.

KOFY-TV — 415/821-2020
Future Media — 415/548-0341

Information from:
Newsbytes article 19-Jul-91

Adam Engst No comments

A New Voice

Recent discussions on USENET have mentioned a new version of MacInTalk that’s supposedly in the works at Apple. Last year MacInTalk sparked some heated debates when Apple announced the aging speech-synthesis software would no longer be supported and could not be counted on to work with future system software or hardware releases. The new version sounds like it’s a step ahead of the old software which, while it was certainly handy, was hardly impressive as speech synthesis went.

At the Apple Australian University Consortium Conference last month, Caroline Henton of the ATG talked about the new software and gave a demonstration, which was said to be very impressive. The new MacInTalk will run on all Macs, and is purely software-based. It will support multiple voices, though the version that was demonstrated only included an American English female voice.

Technically, the software uses concatenative synthesis, which presumably means that the component sounds of natural speech are assembled, or concatenated, in the right order to generate understandable, natural-sounding utterances. This differs from two other forms of speech synthesis: formant synthesis, which generates utterances based on the characteristic sound waves of spoken sounds and combinations of sounds; and articulatory synthesis. I can’t really even guess about the latter, despite a linguistic background, except to offer the speculation of Matthew T. Russotto, who suggested that articulatory synthesis might attempt to imitate the sound properties of the human throat and mouth.

The good news is that, whatever the technology behind it, the new MacInTalk is intended to sound as natural as possible. This contrasts with a common approach that trades naturalness for intelligibility. With well-planned utterances, pure intelligibility is a little less of a concern, because the human listener can "fill in" bits and pieces of missing sound when what’s being said sounds natural enough. This is accomplished in face to face communications partially through unconscious lip-reading, though hints such as context and previous conversations help to fill in the rest, especially on the telephone or in other situations where lip-reading isn’t feasible.

MacInTalk has certainly made a difference for the Macintosh; it has allowed games to speak, but it has also allowed sightless Mac users to "hear" what’s on the screen through software such as OutSpoken. A new version that sounds like natural speech and works on new Macs will be welcome.

Information from:
Michael Newbery — [email protected]
Matthew T. Russotto — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

Integrated Software Wars

Back in the early days of Macintosh, when a list of all the software available for the Mac could be printed in the back of every issue of MacUser, a small company called Lotus introduced a new product class for the Mac: integrated software. Jazz, which included word processing, database, communications, and charting functions, wasn’t based on a completely new idea; Apple had AppleWorks for the Apple ][ series, and there were some similar products for DOS. But it was a new thing for Mac users, who until then had usually had to swap floppies, and often change startup disks, to switch tasks.

Jazz fell by the wayside a long time ago, and its planned successor, Modern Jazz, never materialized. In the meantime, Microsoft, which has been accused of following a "me-too" software approach after making a name for itself with MS-DOS a decade ago, introduced Microsoft Works. Works was similar in approach to Jazz, but a lower price, better compatibility with other software, and Microsoft’s market clout gave it a much bigger market share.

Even Microsoft Works was not an outstanding package. It has existed at the front of its category for a long time mainly because there were no other players, and not that strong a demand. When Apple introduced its three new inexpensive Macs last fall, though, they created a relatively new market: low-end users with low-end pocketbooks to match. These users thought that being able to buy a single, inexpensive package that filled most of their software needs was a great idea.

At this point, some other developers realized that there was a market to forge. Symantec, Beagle Bros, and Claris have all announced integrated software packages, and in fact Symantec has shipped their entry, called GreatWorks. BeagleWorks was presumably the subject of the "we could tell you, but then we’d have to kill you" ad a few weeks ago, and Claris Works offers the standard interface that most Claris products have in common.

Symantec and Beagle Bros sound like unusual sources for this kind of productivity software, but in fact this move makes sense for them. Symantec has been looking to leap into the Mac productivity arena for a while; they have a strong presence in the utility software and programming environment areas, but their general productivity software has existed only on DOS platforms. Beagle Bros is a company well known among old-timers for its innovative utilities for the Apple ][, but what’s probably less known is that they wrote AppleWorks 3.0 for Claris, according to a recent MacWEEK article. This makes them a great candidate for designing a new product in the integrated category for the Mac.

It remains to be seen how all of these products will fare, especially since the new entries are up against the Microsoft monolith. Microsoft has already taken the first step towards securing its market share, or at least as large a chunk as possible, by lowering the retail price of Microsoft Works from $295 to $249. (The other integrated packages have, or are expected to have, suggested retail prices of $295 or $299.) That’s not a huge price reduction, but in this low-end market, that almost $50 cut could make a big difference to buyers. Without that price differential Microsoft Works would no longer stand out; in fact, GreatWorks seems overall to be a better package; but with it, the buyer has another reason to lean towards the Microsoft product.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see some changes to the retail pricing of BeagleWorks and Claris Works before they ship, but it would probably be a mistake for Symantec to reduce the GreatWorks price immediately. We’ll provide additional coverage to the Integrated Software Wars as events warrant, but in the meantime it should be amusing to watch Microsoft fighting a battle it thought was long since won.

Related articles:
MacWEEK — 7-16-91, Vol. 5, #25, pg. 1
MacWEEK — 30-Jul-91, Vol. 5, #26, pg. 7
Playboy — Sep-91, Vol. 38, #9, pg. 134