A quick recommendation. If you are interested in the future of the computer industry and electronic technology, read the September 1991 issue of Scientific American. I haven’t finished mine yet, but it has numerous interesting articles by luminaries in the field.
Jasmine has toppled again, and this time its parent company won’t prop it up with extra money. You always hear about (American) companies filing for Chapter 11, which means that they’re bankrupt but are planning to recover and stay in business. Jasmine did that last time, but this time they’re going for Chapter 7, which means that the executives are heading for the border. Not really, that’s the protection afforded by incorporating, but Jasmine is liquidated. I’m sure a pithy quote by Arnold Schwarzenegger would be appropriate here if it weren’t for all the customers who are in danger of being crushed as Jasmine falls. Apparently Jasmine has no plans to return the drives it has in for repair, and it is still accepting (well, throwing in a corner) drives that come in for repair. It’s not that they’re being sleazy – it’s just that there’s no one working, and no money to pay anyone to do so. The moral of the story is: Avoid Jasmine! Do not send them anything! Do not pass Go! Do not collect on your warranty! For those of you who have bad drives from Rodime PLC in Scotland (I’d guess that mostly European users are affected), don’t send them back for repair either. At least one person has yet to receive confirmation of receipt of his drive, sent in some weeks ago, and Rodime PLC has announced that it will cease manufacturing operations. Rodime PLC is separate from Rodime Systems, Inc., of Boca Raton, FL, which is why US Rodime users have less to fear. Several companies, including DriveSavers and Mipro III, will recover dead drives for a fee, so it’s worth talking to them if you are in serious need. I have no experience with any of these companies, and I’m sure there are others, so check into it before sending in your drive. See below for numbers.
Mark H. Anbinder writes, "MacTCP version 1.1, which is System 7 compatible, is now shipping from APDA. To order, customers can call APDA at 800/282-2732. The single-user price is $100. APDA will send MacTCP version 1.1 free of charge to current MacTCP Commercial Distribution and Internal Use licensees. For more information on licensing MacTCP, contact Software Licensing at 408/974-4667."
There’s been concern about a minor ROM bug in the IIci, IIfx, IIsi, and LC. The bug isn’t fatal – it merely slows down a small number of programs a small amount. At some point a bug fix in the form of an extension called MMInit was leaked to the outside world. Thomas Okken kindly quoted to the nets the relevant section from d e v e l o p magazine that closes the issue for good. The answer is, Apple fixed the problem in System 7 (yet another reason to upgrade) and the version of MMInit that made it out of Apple is buggy and can cause data corruption, data loss, and crashes. It’s evil, so don’t use it. If you see it on BBS, please ask the sysop to delete it (especially since it’s not sanctioned by Apple anyway). By the way, if you use MMInit under System 7, it will defeat Apple’s fixes. Even more reason not to bother.
DriveSavers — 415/883-4232
Mipro III — 415/306-1100 — 415/364-9002 (fax)
Murph Sewall — [email protected]
Dave Platt — [email protected]
Steve Burgess, Mipro III — MrMipro on AOL
Mark H. Anbinder, TidBITS Contributing Editor
Thomas Okken — [email protected]
d e v e l o p, #7, pg. 95-96
MacWEEK — 10-Sep-91, Vol. 5, #30, pg. 107
MacWEEK — 24-Sep-91, Vol. 5, #32, pg. 6
[Editor’s Note: At various times I’ve complained about installer programs, which I generally think are overkill for a well-written, compact program. However, now that more and more programs have tons of little accessories like XTND filters, dictionaries, help files, and tutorials galore (and you thought Barbie dolls came with lots of accessories), many companies have decided to go the installer route. Here’s a reason from Paul E. Jacoby why that’s not such a hot idea.]
MacDraw Pro now uses Apple’s Installer program to place itself on your hard disk. This is primarily because there are considerably more parts to the package now (the Program, Help file, Dictionary files, XTND system files, XTND translators, etc.).
The Installer method is supposed to be very straightforward, saving the user the pain of making sure all component of the MacDraw Pro package are properly placed. However, the Installer is a bit brain-dead, and can mess up the installation very easily. Here is the situation:
A user with multiple hard disks who opts to install MacDraw Pro on a hard disk which is NOT the System disk will find the installation to be flawed. The Installation process assumes that you will place the MacDraw Pro package on a hard disk which contains a System Folder. Since this will not be true on a secondary (or tertiary) disk drive or partition, a major fumble occurs.
- The Installer creates a System Folder on the target disk drive.
- The Installer creates a ‘Claris’ folder within the new System Folder on the target hard disk.
- The MacDraw Pro Help file, dictionary files, XTND System files, and XTND translators are placed within the new ‘Claris’ folder on the target hard disk.
- The MacDraw Pro application is placed in a ‘MacDraw Pro Folder’ folder on the target hard disk.
If you assume that all is well after the install and launch MacDraw Pro, you will find the following problems:
- The MacDraw Pro Help file cannot be located, thus you cannot use Help.
- The Claris XTND translators cannot be found, thus you cannot import documents from other programs.
- The dictionary files cannot be found, thus you cannot use the spelling checker.
Super, your new, nifty, MacDraw Pro is not fully functional! Time to delve into the documentation and try to figure out why not. If you are experienced with Claris products, you will rapidly recognize the problem (especially when you see the System Folder sitting on your non-System hard disk!). Moving the items in the Claris folder to your existing Claris folder (in the active System Folder), or creating such a folder in the active System Folder will allow MacDraw Pro to work properly. The funniest part of all of this is the warning in the manual that you can NOT install MacDraw Pro by just dragging things to your disk. Seems to me it would have been faster and more precise to do just that 🙂
I wrote to Claris at [email protected] and got the following response. Tom Barnum gave me permission to post it to the Internet, so I presume TidBITS is fair game as well.
The installer actually makes life much easier on a system with a single hard drive. All the files are placed into the correct places, and the Installer even checks versions to make sure you’re not installing an old version of a file over a newer version. It obviously falls flat on installing to a non-system hard drive. This is beyond the capabilities of Apple’s installer at this time. I hope that someday we’ll have an installer available to us that can install files onto two hard drives. In the meantime, the best installation strategy for two-drive users is to install onto the system drive, drag MacDraw Pro onto the non-system drive, then delete the MacDraw Pro application from the system drive. Then everything is in the right place.
I mentioned that the easiest way to install on a non-System hard drive is to do an Easy Install to the system drive, then drag the application over to the non-system drive. This is the easiest way, but obviously you need an extra 1.5 megs or so on the system drive to temporarily install the application. The other files (dictionaries, help, etc.) are best put in the Claris folder in the System Folder. Many of these files are common to Claris products. They’ll all look to the Claris folder for these files. So, you only need one copy of the dictionary, help and XTND files to service all Claris apps that use them. This can save hard disk space.
If you’re really tight on hard disk space on the System disk, you can place the dictionaries and other auxiliary files in the MacDraw Pro folder on the non-system drive. MacDraw Pro will look to its own folder for the dictionaries, help and XTND files.
[The electronic medium falls down here, as it’s hard for me to indicate that I’m the one writing again, and not Paul or Tom. I’m stepping in again to make a couple of points. -Adam]
- Installers are not inherently evil, but most are poorly done.
- Installers can be extremely useful in certain instances.
- Apple’s installer is as close as we get to a standard Macintosh installer.
- Apple’s installer has some problems, as evidenced by the above.
Therefore, we need a new installer. The best installer I’ve seen recently comes with Now Utilities 3.0. I found it to be simple and clear, and it tells you what each control does in an information box. Sure, it’s not balloon help, but many people don’t use balloon help, even when they should. Apple’s installer has some good points too, like warning you which disks you’ll need ahead of time. You can even write a script for Apple’s installer, but from what I hear, it’s very hard to do. StuffIt Deluxe can work as an installer as well, but it’s mainly used when the files are compressed.
Someone, preferably Apple so it becomes ubiquitous, should come up with an installer which can do at least the following:
- Copy files to any user-specified folder on any hard disk, but allowing a suggestion from the developer that the user can override.
- Install or change resources in files. This will also allow large, split files to be joined.
- Delete specific outdated files.
- Perform expansion of compressed files in one of the popular formats.
- Give the user a text preview of what will happen. If multiple disks are involved, that too should be made clear.
- Provide feedback throughout the entire installation process.
- Provide a reasonably simple method for creating install procedures.
Then I’ll be happy.
Paul E. Jacoby — [email protected]
Tom Barnum, Claris Tech Support —
I watched the User Group TV broadcast on September 25th with a couple of media center professionals who were REALLY impressed with Apple’s broadcasts last year for educators and developers. I’ve also talked with a user group member who watched at another site. We’ve all arrived at the same conclusion – the show took 90 minutes for about 15 minutes worth of content.
[Adam here. I saw the show too and generally agree with Murph. I’ll add any comments I may have in square brackets, as usual.]
The "Tour of Apple" was a truly awful amateur production that wasted a lot of valuable time. Frankly, my neighbors home videos are more entertaining. Oddly, after the Apple II segment, the show contained a quick two minutes or so that did as much as the pointless tour.
[Murph’s speaking of a fictionalized Odyssey Bus Tour featuring sappy computer user stereotypes, a stupid tour guide in a referee’s striped shirt, and a slimy reporter. The slimy reporter was included as a broad poke at MacWEEK, since at the end he flipped the MacWEEK press pass in his hat to reveal the other side, which said MacLeak. I think the rationale behind the tour was to add some humor (only occasionally successful – they could have called the tour bus the "NuBus," but missed that obvious opportunity) and to provide a look at Apple and Apple’s history. I also suspect they taped most of it beforehand.]
An appearance by the CEO (John Sculley) is more or less obligatory. We can forgive him for being as bland as nofat margarine.
[He did make one important point that is notably lacking from the visions of the industry I’ve heard from other multi-millionaires, Mr. Bill included. Sculley said quite rightly that perhaps the most important task facing the computer industry is changing how people use computers. Bill’s long-term vision of a computer on every desk is boring if people are using those computers for the same old tasks. However, Sculley’s ideas were aesthetically marred by the jerky transitions in the pre-recorded sequence. Shame on those video engineers. As Murph said in email, they could have just used an Amiga and a Video Toaster to clean it up.]
The Apple II segment was something of a disappointment. The stuff on the new Finder was interesting, but HyperCard GS with the Video Overlay Card was so hurried that it was largely unhelpful. Zip, zero, nothing on the new software for the LC //e card 🙁
[Yeah, really! That //e card is pretty cool, but I did hear that it will be able to share partitions on an LC with the MacOS.]
The Macintosh QuickTime demonstration was one of the few redeeming features of the night (award second place to the description of Apple’s stuff for user groups which Apple Ambassadors know about, but which many [possibly most?] group members are unaware of). Even our jaded media professionals were impressed (especially since the demo used WordPerfect Mac as a "for example" application). Alas, the demo also included "I haven’t got time to show you this, so you’ll have to trust me on it." If the production had been better managed, there would have been time.
[Murph’s right, the QuickTime demo was excellent, but left you wanting to see a lot more. The Apple Events demo was also good, showing linking between a forms package and an accounting package that provided almost relational database capabilities for the two programs over a network.]
Some of the flaws were cosmetic. Most of what the broadcast industry refers to as "the talent" weren’t broadcasting professionals, so they can be forgiven for coming over sometimes as paralyzed by the camera and mike. However, many of those segments could have been prerecorded; they probably should have been. That would have given the presenters an opportunity to smooth over the rough spots, but most of all it would have permitted editing in a LOT more production value (more graphics, less "talking heads"). After all, the whole point of buying the satellite time is IT’S VISUAL – "show," don’t just "tell."
Apple DOES have folks who can put on a show worthy of network television at the drop of an invitation. I’ve got a video of Pat Kuras, who works out of Apple’s Connecticut office and sometimes contributes a thought or two to the Info-Mac digest, at a User Group meeting last June that’s both more informative and more entertaining than Wednesday night’s broadcast. Maybe Pat’s unique?
[The lack of professionalism came through especially when the hosts were trying to remember what they were supposed to say and swapping turns to talk. There’s no reason that stuff had to be live – there was little interaction with the live audience for most of it. On the whole the staff did quite well when responding to the audience’s questions, so they should have stuck with that for the live parts.]
Perhaps we’re grumpy here because we had to stay up late (I understand that’s a function of the lease costs for satellite transponder time rather than simply waiting until after California’s dinner hour 🙂 Also, our opinion undoubtedly is colored by the certain knowledge that Apple is capable of delivering MUCH HIGHER quality.
[Nah, I thought it was mediocre too and I didn’t have to stay up late now that I live on the West Coast where the time is funny.]
To Apple’s credit, their interest in and attention to user groups certainly contrasts with their competitors (all of them, not just the Blue one). I wonder if Apple has really figured out exactly how to cooperate with user groups to best advantage? User groups are by every account I’ve ever seen FAR, FAR better than "see your dealer" at resolving problems, especially those dealing with software. However, when user groups ask Apple for some support for those training activities, the response has sometimes been inappreciative. Still, we’re starting to see some evidence that change is underway. The support packages (Quicken, FileMaker Pro templates) for user groups shown on the broadcast are a very supportive response (more than the competition offers their user groups :). It would appear that the User Group Evangelists inside Apple are getting the cost-benefit message through to the policy makers.
[To be fair, Microsoft does have two people who are full-time User Group Coordinators (I met one at the UGTV presentation, as a matter of fact). Still, Apple does more for user groups than any other computer company that I know of.]
The outrageous opinions above are my own and do not necessarily represent those of either user group I belong to or my employers media center staff.
[The opinions in square brackets are my own and aren’t Murph’s. They do however reflect the official views of TidBITS :-). Seriously now, Apple put a lot of money and time into that UGTV presentation, but could have done a far better job. I applaud their willingness to spend money on supporting user groups, but I hope they think more clearly about what they’re doing next time.]
Murph Sewall — [email protected]
DigiGraf Goes Freeware
Simon Tortike just announced on Usenet that he is transforming his DigiGraf digitizing application from shareware to freeware. Simon said that he no longer has the time to support the program to the extent that he feels he must to justify its existence as shareware. I wish to applaud Simon’s forthrightness in dealing with this situation – most people would merely have stopped upgrading the program and continued to cash the occasional check. Thank you, Simon.
I personally have not seen DigiGraf, and to tell the truth, I’m unlikely to look for it because I have no need of its abilities. It is a digitizing program that allows you to turn a graph, diagram, mesh, or contour back into the original numbers (an extremely useful transformation for those who need it). Those of you who have been with us for a while might remember the first product review we published, sometime last January. It was a program called FlexiTrace, and was reviewed for us by Len Schwer. From Simon’s description, I gather that DigiGraf will do much the same thing as FlexiTrace, although it may not be as polished and will certainly not get the same support. You can use DigiGraf with either a normal mouse or with a Summagraphics Bit Pad Plus (although Simon says he hasn’t tested the latest version of DigiGraf thoroughly with the Bit Pad Plus). You can also digitize graphical data that is already in your Mac, so if you have a scanner you can use that to grab data as well as a mouse or tablet.
Simon’s description of DigiGraf’s abilities is better than what I could do, so I quote: "DigiGraf will translate, rotate, and scale your data, which can be entered as individual points or by scanning at a certain rate per second. It handles logarithmic and linear scales, and allows the user to choose the display formats. All data can be saved to a text file, or be copied and pasted. The data is tab-delimited, so one can paste it directly into a spreadsheet or a plotting program. The only hard part is clicking on the positive end point of each axis and on the origin, to identify the (orthogonal) coordinate system. Use DigiGraf to replot those old, hard-to-read functions, or to change plotted data into tables for input to another program. Digitize mesh node coordinates from a diagram for use with finite element software. Digitize the outline of a spinal cord X-ray. Digitize a contour map. A hundred and one uses. :-)" Thank you, Simon, although I still don’t have the foggiest idea what a mesh node coordinate is or what it has to do with finite element software. But if you do know what it is, then you may want to check out DigiGraf. The price is right, and I would suggest sending Simon a thank you note if you use DigiGraf at all.
DigiGraf is officially available by anonymous FTP from
in the directory
Just before I sent this issue out I got the latest Info-Mac digest with news of another application that performs a similar task. Called DataThief, it is limited to reading in data from a scanned graph and appears to only handle X-Y graphs, although in both PICT and Paint format. DataThief includes auto-trace and manual modes, so you can do the tracing yourself if it doesn’t seem to be getting it right. DataThief is compatible with System 7 and the author (Kees Huyser, I presume) merely asks that you send a postcard. Between DigiGraf and DataThief, it sounds to me like you can get a fair amount of power for the price.
DataThief is available via anonymous FTP from
in the directory
Simon Tortike — [email protected]
Kees Huyser — ke[email protected]