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Adam Engst No comments

In Retrospect

In the first part of July TidBITS had a full review of Retrospect 1.3 that was quite complimentary – heck, it’s a good program. Since then we’ve heard more about Retrospect and its developers, Dantz Development, that might interest you.

For a while now SuperMac has wanted focus on its graphics hardware and to divest itself of its software group. Originally there was talk of spinning off a software company, but now it appears that SuperMac is selling its products to other companies. SuperMac’s DiskFit, which has long been a strong player in the low-end backup program market, is one of those programs. Luckily for us, the original developers, Dantz, are purchasing DiskFit and plan to upgrade it to DiskFit Pro (which I believe will include the features of Network DiskFit, although I don’t know what other new features it will include). I presume that Dantz will market DiskFit to people who want Finder-readable backups and who don’t want the complexity or power of Retrospect. Who knows, DiskFit Pro may end up costing a bit less than Retrospect. SuperMac will not provide technical support for DiskFit after the end of 1991, and (unless Dantz has a surprise for us) there will be no more of the "df" versions of DiskFit that were free to owners of SuperMac’s Dataframe hard disks.

We’re not sure how Retrospect and DiskFit will differ, but it seems clear that Retrospect’s main limitations lie in archive management. Once you store an item in an archive, all you can do is get it out by copying to another volume. In the ideal archiving program, you would be able to delete or replace that file, or perhaps even read it into a program (although saving directly into the archive again would probably be difficult and not all that useful). Given Retrospect’s abilities at putting files into an archive, we’d love to see some management capabilities once the files are in that archive. We’ve heard hints from Dantz that they are working on just this sort of capability for Retrospect, so look for the next upgrade to provide some interesting new features.

All is not perfect in the Retrospect world, and Mark H. Anbinder, changing from his TidBITS Baby-sitter hat to his BAKA Tech Support hat, sent this note. "Brian Calhoun-Bryant of BAKA Technical Support reports that there is a known incompatibility between AppleShare 2.01 file server software and the Retrospect Remote software. Dantz Development Corporation has confirmed the problem. Dantz recommends that Retrospect users should NOT use their Remote software to back up an AppleShare file server. Apparently, if the server is accessed by an AppleShare client while the remote backup is taking place, the computer will almost certainly crash. This is true with all versions of Retrospect including 1.2 and 1.3, with AppleShare 2.01. Dantz reports that they are working closely with Apple on the problem, and Retrospect Remote 1.3 will work fine with AppleShare 3.0, expected later this year."

"In the meantime, they recommend that users back up their AppleShare file servers by mounting the server at the computer where Retrospect is running, and backing it up like any other local volume. If the volume is mounted with full administrator privileges, then all access information will be backed up as well as all files. The only thing that will not be backed up is the Server Folder, which contains the server’s system software and the file server software. Dantz suggests that users should be able to back up this folder using the Remote software in the middle of the night or at any time when server activity is unlikely."

"Please note that Retrospect 1.3, which is compatible with System 7, is a free upgrade for all owners of Retrospect 1.2. If you have not yet received it, contact Dantz to confirm that you have been registered. Have your serial number(s) handy."

Dantz — 415/849-0295.

Information from:
Mark H. Anbinder, BAKA Computers Technical Support
[email protected]
Rich Long — [email protected]
Steve Lemke — [email protected]
Mike Wiese — [email protected]
Fabian Ramirez — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

Claris & Microsoft

I’m still getting used to the wealth of computer events in the Seattle area. Seattle’s dBUG had Claris in to show off ClarisWorks and MacDraw Pro a few weeks ago and last Thursday we went to a talk by Mr. Bill himself, an event cosponsored by dBUG and the Pacific Northwest PC Users Group. Although in both cases Claris and Microsoft stuck to the corporate line, there were some interesting bits and pieces.

As an aside, I hate taking notes on paper in a darkened room, particularly when there’s no desk. I’ve been using InfoGrip’s MiniBAT palmtop computer for this purpose because the chord keyboard allows me to touch type in the dark (soon to be a major rock song from TidBITS Productions, "Typing in the Dark"). I’m getting better all the time, though I doubt I’ll ever be as fast on the MiniBAT’s keyboard as on a normal QWERTY keyboard because the MiniBAT’s keys have almost no travel. I can’t wait to try the BAT, InfoGrip’s full chording keyboard, when it becomes available for the Mac. The only problem is that my multitasking capabilities can’t handle Tonya’s comments while paying attention and typing on the MiniBAT. Serious processing overload…

Interestingly enough, Claris’s best seller is MacDraw II, followed by FileMaker Pro. They didn’t mention where MacWrite II fit into that scheme, but they did claim that it was the most popular word processor (probably Macintosh word processor) in Japan because of the Kanji support. I was slightly surprised to hear of MacDraw’s popularity because I’ve been more impressed with Deneba’s Canvas for much of the limited graphics I’ve done (mostly room layouts and technical illustrations). MacDraw Pro will have some pretty impressive new features, which it will need to compete with Canvas 3.0. I especially liked the custom gradient palette, which allowed you to define a number of custom fills by specifying the light source and a range of colors. MacDraw Pro will also sport most of the ruler features of MacWrite II, which will make text handling far easier than in most graphics programs. Extending MacDraw’s uses still further is the ability to do presentations, I assume in a slide-show type manner, without the menubar showing. Despite that ability, a friend at the presentation said that he was positive that Claris had used Aldus Persuasion for the electronic slide-show we saw. I wonder if MacDraw Pro might still have a few bugs :-)?

Resolve was there too, but let’s face it, Resolve is no longer interesting news. What I did find interesting was ClarisWorks, which combines the primary features of the Claris family of applications in what appeared to be a small (570K) and fast program. The basic concept behind ClarisWorks is that of objects on a page, but unlike Microsoft Works for Windows (I haven’t seen Works on the Mac, but I believe it’s similar or even worse), when you select a graphic object the menus and palettes change to the appropriate tools and you can still see and work with everything on the page. The only application not integrated with the rest is the communications module, which in some ways must be separate, not being production-oriented. It is based on the Comm Toolbox, and although I suspect it is fairly simple, the CTB will provide a good bit of power. ClarisWorks is due in December, and will probably be the next Claris application to appear since MacDraw Pro and MacWrite Pro and the next version of FileMaker Pro certainly won’t be available until sometime next year.

After Bill’s talk, Microsoft showed off Microsoft Works for Windows and Microsoft Publisher for Windows, both of which were announced last week. WinWorks seemed capable, but broke little new ground and wasn’t nearly as smooth as ClarisWorks. The base page looked about the same, but if you double-clicked on a spreadsheet object to work on it, a separate window opened up with all of the spreadsheet tools and menus. Clumsier, but Works works. Sorry.

The hit of the evening wasn’t even Mr. Bill telling a member of the audience that he wouldn’t buy the financially troubled Seattle Mariners baseball team or that he’d never spent more than maybe $22 on a pizza – an answer I didn’t understand. I must have missed a story about how Bill went on a rampage and would spend hundreds of dollars on a black olive, onion, and anchovy pizza, his favorite. No, the best part was when the product manager of Microsoft Publisher for Windows showed off the final Wizard in Publisher. Let me explain Wizards. They are essentially pre-installed macros (I don’t know if you can make your own as well) that step the user through a series of questions en route to a certain type of layout or effect. The interface was excellent, with graphical representations of your choices at every step. First, she showed a greeting card Wizard (which a friend termed "Print Shop on steroids"), a newsletter Wizard, and a Wizard for quickly creating drop caps. The final Wizard, though, was the best because it walked you through the steps needed to create a number of types of paper airplanes. You could choose various effects and decals, and when you were done it would print out a sheet of paper with the folding lines marked along with either printed or on-screen instructions. The one thing you couldn’t add was a radio – the program essentially told you to get real. Apparently an enthusiastic intern created the airplane Wizard, and it wasn’t clear if Mr. Bill knew that the product manager had decided to leave it in the shipping version. I don’t think Publisher had many high-end features (no kerning to the millionth of a point or virtual leading), and they wouldn’t say whether or not they were planning on a Macintosh version, which more or less implies that they’re not at the moment. There was some talk about porting Visual Basic to the Mac, though, and that would be interesting to see.

Since the event was cosponsored by Mac and PC users groups, Bill was careful not to offend either party by making disparaging comments about either Apple or IBM. He also garnered a lot of immediate good will with the giveaway – as you walked in, user group staffers accosted you with the terse question, "Mac? IBM?" and when you responded, they happily shoved a copy of the appropriate Flight Simulator into your hands. I can’t wait to get my copy of HyperCard 2.1 so I can crash a plane into the Golden Gate bridge via Apple Events. Apparently they got the shrink wrapped copies of the Mac version that day – the project manager for Flight Simulator saw his first shrink-wrapped box that night. All in the name of the possibly mythical Big-But-Not-Bad Wolf.

It was the fairly standard song and dance, I gather, and Bill didn’t really break any new ground. But then again, Microsoft is not in business to break new ground, but instead to make lots of money harvesting the crops. There was a hint that Microsoft will be branching out into innovation a bit more at some point, since it has started a new research and development group and is busy hiring as many well-known scientists as it can, including the designer of the Mach operating system used in the NeXT. Still, it was interesting to hear the company line straight from the man himself, and I’ll be curious to hear future versions of the company line at later talks (as was one developer who asked if Windows was really the operating system Microsoft was going to push now, since the last time he’d asked the answer had been OS/2).

Information from:
Claris reps
Bill Gates
Microsoft Program Managers

Adam Engst No comments

DataClub for Free

Just before we left Ithaca, International Business Software started a great deal on a DataClub whereby for some low price (around $75, if I remember correctly) you could get a three-user pack of DataClub along with WriteNow, Panorama, and MacCalc, I think. At the time, I decided not to mention the deal in TidBITS because the flyer claimed that not just everyone was eligible. However, I was talking to the press agent for IBS recently, and she said that she didn’t think that IBS was checking closely, so if you’re interested in getting DataClub and some other good entry level software, it’s worth giving them a call and pretending you got one of those flyers. I don’t know how much longer the deal will go on, so call soon or don’t complain.

$75 is a good price, sure, but what if you’d prefer not to pay anything at all? Piracy is out (and causes tooth decay), but if you work with a non-profit organization, IBS is giving away more of those three-user packs for free. You can only get one, and they only have 3000 to give away, but if you’re fast and lucky you might still get one. I heard about the deal late Friday afternoon, so you do have a pretty good chance of getting your hands on a copy if you call as soon as you read this.

Although IBS comes up smelling like the proverbial rose with all these deals, you do have to realize that you are supporting guerilla marketing. By offering great prices and free packages, even if only for a short time, IBS gets a lot of copies of DataClub out to the market where people can see that they are useful. In addition, since you need to buy another package if you want to add more than three pseudo-server Macs to your DataClub network (you can have as many clients as you want since DataClub clients use the AppleShare client software on your system disks), IBS is likely to rack up yet more sales at a higher price. I mention this partly because I do think people should be aware of how they’ve been targeted, and partly because I subscribe to the Usenet theory of commercialism: there’s nothing wrong with it as long as the community good outweighs the hassle of reading advertising.

Another thing you should keep in mind is that the currently shipping version of DataClub is not completely compatible with System 7. System 7 Macs can be clients on a DataClub network, but they can’t contribute their hard disk space. IBS has slated a System 7-compatible version for the end of September, and as I said in a previous article a few months ago, it will be slightly different in that there will be two versions, DataClub Classic and DataClub Elite. DataClub Elite will take over the dedicated-server features of the current version, and DataClub Classic will retain the non-dedicated parts. That will allow you to create a single network virtual volume by dedicating one or more Macs to DataClub as well as having some non-dedicated Macs helping out. There will be a few more neat features, like significant speed increases (up to four times faster), remote administration tools (ideal for those headless dedicated servers), and load-balancing tools for the administrator to ensure that you squeeze every last bit of performance out of your network.

IBS — 800/733-2822 — 800/522-5939

Information from:
Carrie Wong — Niehaus PR (for IBS)
IBS propaganda — [email protected]