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Adam Engst No comments


Longtime reader and contributor Ken Hancock sent along several comments regarding the last few issues. On the subject of data compression in the DoveFax+, Ken noted that V.42 is an error correcting protocol; V.42bis is the corresponding data compression protocol. As for menubar clocks, he recommends SuperClock 3.9, which works fine with System 7’s menu bar.

While he was at it, Ken sent along the information that Apple has released System 6.0.8. This new revision of the System software might seem to be a bit backward, but in fact Apple is providing System 6.0.8 solely for the benefit of users who need to coexist with System 7 users. The 6.0.8 package differs from 6.0.7 only in that it includes the same versions of the printer drivers as does System 7. This is most important for networked LaserWriter users, as all users of a single printer must use the same version of the printing software. You can accomplish this by installing the newer print drivers in an existing 6.0.7 setup, but Apple decided to make it less confusing for users by putting this software together in one package. Users who would like System 6.0.8 can get it from their usual sources: the local dealer or user group, or some of the on-line services. Internet users should be able to find it on Apple’s anonymous ftp server at

An Info-Mac reader recently asked why merging each week’s issue with his TidBITS Archive requires so much disk space, and fellow TidBITSophile Ian Feldman was kind enough to answer for us. For the benefit of others who’ve been wondering, the merge process requires at least as much free disk space as the size of your archive plus the size of the new issue. The reason is that, at the end of the merge, the TidBITS stack compresses itself (using HyperCard’s Compact Stack command) to the smallest possible size, eliminating any free space within the stack. HyperCard does this by creating a brand new HyperCard stack and copying all of the cards, in order, from the original stack. It then deletes the original stack, and you’re left with a new one of the same name. Of course, as you’ve no doubt noticed, the process of copying the entire stack can also take quite a while.

A reader on America Online asked me to set the record straight regarding the product that opened up the integrated software market on the Macintosh. JoelS7 wrote that he isn’t sure, but he believes that Hayden’s Ensemble came first. Can anyone tell us for sure?

You may have noticed last week that Adam Engst, the TidBITS creator and usual editor, has a new permanent mailing address. He and Tonya are settling into their new apartment in Redmond, WA, and look forward to hearing from people once again. Adam’s Internet connections are not finalized yet, but he is on America Online regularly, and can be reached there as "Adam Engst," or you can send mail to their postal address on the first card of this issue.

Information from:
Ken Hancock — [email protected]
Ian Feldman — [email protected]
JoelS7 on America Online
Mark H. Anbinder — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

Adios, Mac Plus!

Apple recently sounded Taps for the venerable Mac Plus by removing some related items from its price lists. Although the Mac Plus itself has been off the price list since last fall, when it was replaced by the Mac Classic, Apple has continued to offer the upgrades required to turn a 128K or 512K Macintosh into a Plus. As of the 15 September price lists, though, these products, the Macintosh Plus Disk Drive Kit and the Macintosh Plus Logic Board Kit, along with the Macintosh Plus Keyboard, are history.

According to Apple, the upgrade products are being discontinued because of the Macintosh Classic, which offers a better value than upgrading old equipment. In fact, most dealers have been saying the same thing for a long time, though some customers have preferred to stick with their trusty original Macs, and have upgraded anyway. The current backlog of orders will be filled, but no new orders will be taken for these products.

I remember when these upgrade products first became available, and I remember having the upgrades performed on my Mac! There’s no question that the upgrades were useful at the time, but I think their usefulness evaporated quite a while ago. It’s about time that Apple retired them.

At the same time, Apple announced that it is discontinuing its Macintosh II Internal 800K floppy drive, due to the availability of the Macintosh II SuperDrive upgrade. In addition, Apple is removing its blank diskettes from the price list. As they put it, "Floppy media is being discontinued because there are many vendors offering floppy media to meet customers demands." Did anyone ever really buy Apple-label diskettes anyway?

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

Adam Engst No comments

Mac In Space II

The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry, it’s said, so it is particularly nice to be able to report that some recent plans of mice and men came off just fine. (Well, okay, most of them were trackballs of one form or another, not mice.)

I’m speaking, of course, about STS-43, the recent flight of the space shuttle Atlantis and its "Mac In Space II" projects. Despite a few problems that delayed the start of the mission, and some small glitches during the Macintosh phases, the Mac-related parts of the mission have been labeled successful by the AppleLink and NASA teams that were involved. In addition to the AppleLink connection we discussed in issue 74, the Macintosh Portable projects included the testing of four cursor-control devices, the recording of lower body negative pressure (LBNP) medical test results, shuttle flight path tracking, and reminding the crew of timed events using a WristMac.

The first AppleLink message from space came through after a few tries. It was a simple message, as befits a first attempt:

"Hello Earth ! Greetings from the STS-43 Crew. This is the first Applelink from space. Having a GREAT time, wish you were here,… send cryo,and RCS! Have a nice day…… Hasta la vista, baby,… we’ll be back!"

[Editor’s note: cryo = cryogenics (meaning, send more fuel for life support–air, etc.); RCS = Reaction Control System (meaning, send more fuel for maneuvering/control). In other words, they wanted to stay up there!]

According to Michael Elliot Silver, AppleLink Development Project Manager, this success came after two failed connections. An error message reading "The modem pool is not responding" was reported by the Atlantis crew, apparently caused by a spike in the signal putting the ROLM data switching system "back to sleep" after a connection had been established the first time. The second failure occurred because the ROLM had not reset itself properly. The third time was the charm, but because the TDRS (Tracking and Data Relay Satellite) was in low-power mode (part of one of the experiments) and because the shuttle was at a poor attitude in relation to the TDRS, the signal was very weak, and after a couple of minutes the signal began dropping in and out and was lost. For more information on how the connection worked, see the article in TidBITS-074.

The cursor-control experiments were designed (by Lockheed scientists) to determine what kinds of cursor-control devices might be suitable for use on future shuttle missions or on the planned space station. Since there is no gravity to speak of in orbit, a mechanical mouse, which depends on gravity holding a heavy ball against rollers, is useless. The devices that were tested were the Mac Portable’s trackball, a modified aircraft control stick fitted with a thumb ball at the top, a two-inch trackball, and an optical mouse. No test results are available as yet, but we will try to pass them along as soon as Apple or NASA releases them!

According to earlier reports, the Macintosh is not the computer of choice for the space program; a DOS-compatible laptop is. However, Lockheed discovered that the Macintosh had the widest variety of pointing devices available right now, so it became the obvious choice for the experiments. Some future experiments will probably take place with a DOS laptop, but if this mission is any indication, the astronauts will soon be clamoring to get their Macintosh back!

The other tasks performed on the Macintosh were less test than actual productive work. Eagle Technical Services provided the programming for the Lower Body Negative Pressure experiments, in which the astronauts collected medical information on how the lower body reacts to weightlessness and other environmental oddities during space missions. And, using software similar to the freeware Hubble Space Telescope tracking utility, the astronauts were able to monitor their orbital status and position relative to the ground using MacSpOC (Shuttle Portable Computer), a special program developed by Dan Adamo.

Naturally, trying to do all these experiments at once was difficult. According to Silver, astronaut Jim Adamson put it best when he said, "The problem is, we only have one Macintosh on board." With luck, the successes from this mission will convince NASA planners to include Macs on future shuttle missions… and with the smaller, less-bulky Mac Portables on the way, that should be even easier than before.

If you are interested in more of the details about the shuttle mission, the material released by Apple’s Michael Elliot Silver (which includes a complete set of Debra Muratore’s official NASA progress reports) should be widely available by now. One place to check is the Memory Alpha BBS, at 607/257-5822, in the "STARNET" file section.

Information from:
Rick Holzgrafe — [email protected]
Michael Elliot Silver — AppleLink
Debra Muratore — NASA

Adam Engst No comments

Happy Endings

It’s always nice to hear about a company that provides an unusually high level of customer service, and when I do, I like to pass the news along so that the company’s efforts are rewarded. Reader Tom DeBoni sent this to us a few weeks ago after having a good experience with Questronex, Inc:

I recently came across a new need I didn’t know I couldn’t fill. I solved a problem with the help of some friendly and helpful folks at a company called Questronex, and I’d like to let others know about the problem, the company, and their product.

I wanted to run A/UX from a small partition on a hard disk dedicated to doing only that. This is necessary, as the A/UX Startup app wants to run from a very vanilla system – anything added to it will likely prevent it from working. But, I also wanted to be able to run a full blown Mac System 6.0.5 from another partition of the same disk. In spite of the advent of System 7, I still need the old system often enough to want to keep it handy. I had thought the Startup Device control panel would give me the ability to switch boot partitions at will, but I was wrong. Turns out that the control panel allows only the choice of a physical device; which partition of the chosen device is used depends on the way the drive and its software are designed. I had received the Questronex hard disk formatting software with a 300 MB drive I’d ordered for running A/UX, and during the setup of the drive, this problem came up.

I had no trouble using an early (and free) version of Questronex StorageWare to format and partition the drive, setting it up for both A/UX and the Mac System, but StorageWare didn’t address the startup partition problem. I was stymied. So, I contacted the vendor of the software and they gave me some good advice: get a goodie they were developing. I did and it worked.

The people at Questronix were very friendly and helpful, explaining the nature of my problems, and sending me the software I needed as part of an upgrade to StorageWare.

The new version of their product is called StorageWare 4.0, and it is similar to LaCie’s SilverLining, but has a better interface. I used StorageWare to set up my drive, updated the driver with StorageWare 4.0, and now use the extra goodie they sent me, the StorageWare Assistant control panel, to choose a boot partition. Both the application and the control panel have many features I’m not mentioning here. The software comes with a manual that does a fair job of documenting the product’s features. The control panel allows the specification of passwords and write-protection for selected partitions, among other things.

I can’t quote a price for their stuff, as I got it free with a drive, but it’s worth any reasonable price. I recommend these folks highly, if you’re looking for an aftermarket SCSI utility!

Questronex, Inc.
1050 Calle Negocio
San Clemente, CA 92672
Phone: 714/498-5154
Fax: 714/498-7825

Information from:
Tom DeBoni — [email protected]