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Adam Engst No comments


Earl Williams recently informed me about a catch to the great deal that International Business Software offered with DataClub, WriteNow, Panorama, and MacCalc. Apparently, the version of DataClub does not include the DataClub Admin application. This sounds serious, but in reality it’s not that bad, since you don’t need DataClub Admin unless you want to create users and groups and passwords. DataClub works fine without it. In addition, a coupon in the box allows you to buy DataClub Admin for $50. IBS said that the offer should have mentioned the lack of DataClub Admin, but it was somehow lost. So the deal isn’t quite as good as it seemed previously, but even with the extra $50 it’s still attractive. It’s too bad IBS comes off looking flaky, but I don’t believe it was malicious or intentionally misleading.

Roger Hart writes,

The SuperDrive on our SE has dramatically improved the quality of the air in our home here in Los Angeles. Just as Apple helps keep your desk clean by collecting filth into little chunks around the rollers inside your mouse, the SuperDrive removes dust from the air. The air is filtered in a circuitous route through the machine where dust is trapped by the magnetic/electrical properties of the drive head and other electronic components.

Unfortunately, apparently due to faulty design of the SE, some Mac users may become unnecessarily alarmed by the persistent "disk unreadable" dialog boxes which result. This is only a healthy sign of how effective your Mac is at conditioning the air.

Warning: Before you are tempted to use so-called floppy disk cleaners, mini-vacuums or compressed air to get rid of these "unwanted" dialogue boxes, remember that doing so will only return the dust so painstakingly collected by your Mac back into the environment.

Information from:
Earl Williams — [email protected]
Roger Hart — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments


If you’re the sort who pays attention to corporate mergers, you’ll remember that Novell was in the process of buying Digital Research, Inc. (DRI) earlier in the summer. One of the carrots in front of Novell has just been upgraded, leapfrogging MS-DOS yet again. DR DOS 6.0 is out with a whole slew of features. Primary among them, as far as I can tell, include the ability to stuff even more code into high memory to allow programs to use 628K of main memory (the Mac and Unix people start snickering about this point) and built-in disk compression, disk defragmenting, and file recovery utilities. DRI also included a graphical shell, task-switching abilities, battery management capabilities for portables, numerous security features (such as password protected files, directories, and logins, as well as automatic keyboard locking), and online hypertext documentation. DR DOS retails for $99 and cheaper upgrades are available to registered users. From the sounds of it, if you have to use DOS, DR DOS is a bit more powerful than MS-DOS 5.0, while retaining the same compatibilities.

Digital Research — 408/649-3896 — 800/274-4DRI

Information from:
Steve McNabb — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

Apple/IBM: It’s Official

Some people would prefer that title to be "Apple/IBM: It’s Oh-fish-al," since they think they detect a tell-tale smell. However, the Apple/IBM deal appears to be real and was consummated last week in the press releases, where all good industry relationships eventually end up. Nothing much has really changed since the first news came out, but the two companies are focussing more on multimedia than was expected, even though we thought that IBM would be interested in Apple’s QuickTime technology.

The deal has five main points, although no one can be sure how long it will take for some of these things to appear on the market. First and least interesting to those of us who don’t connect to large IBM systems will be some products that will help meld the Mac with the mongo IBMs. My opinion is that this is good for Apple’s appearance to the big buyers, but has little interest otherwise. Of course this stuff is the easiest and was probably in the works as soon as Sculley and IBM’s Akers started talking. Look for it by the beginning of 1992.

Second come the PowerPC RISC processors, although Apple and IBM, along with Motorola, are hoping that their RISC processors don’t finish second to the MIPS R4000. Motorola hitched a ride on this part of the deal since Apple will be ignoring a Motorola-designed RISC chip that was reputed to have some problems despite a lot of Apple input. The PowerPC chips will evolve from IBM’s current implementation of the technology in its RS/6000 workstations. I’ve heard differing opinions on how good the PowerPC technology is overall and where its strengths and weaknesses lie, but since I know little about processor design and implementation, I’ll stay out of the fray. Since Motorola has to do quite a bit of work on the new single-chip implementation of the PowerPC, it will be several years before Apple and IBM, much less anyone else in the market, can buy them from Motorola.

Third comes Unix, or at least the melting-pot combination of IBM’s version of it, AIX, Apple’s version, A/UX, and the POWER architecture of IBM’s RISC chips. From what I’ve heard, the resulting dish will be able to run Macintosh software along with both AIX and A/UX software, and will sport some of A/UX’s interface features, but will be built on the AIX core. Of course, to mix in a little spicy confusion, Apple and IBM will both continue enhancing AIX and A/UX independently. And people wonder why Unix has never caught on?

Fourth comes the new emphasis on multimedia. Rather than just a little cross licensing, Apple and IBM will create a new independent company that will come up with new multimedia technologies and license them where ever possible. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some consumer electronics products come out of this joint venture, although I certainly hope that it is staffed with totally new people. I’ve seen few interesting multimedia efforts from IBM, due in part to the fact that multimedia is essentially entertainment-like and IBM just isn’t terribly entertaining. Apple has a much better concept of this, which is one reason that Apple will continue to lead in the multimedia market, despite the multimedia extensions to Windows. And please accept my apologies for using the term "multimedia." I realize it’s a poor word, and linguistically incorrect, but it’s the jargon of choice.

Fifth and finally comes the primary focus of the deal. Apple and IBM will create an independent company to develop a next-generation object-oriented operating environment. If I threw "multimedia" in that sentence as well, I’d probably get a triple sentence score in Jargon Scrabble. This company will work with Apple’s Pink OS and attempt to create an operating system that is platform independent to the extent that it will work on RISC workstations, machines based on the 80×86 chips, and computers using Motorola’s 680×0 chips. To be real, I’d say that you can forget about the lower end PCs and Macs, and the Commodore 64 is right out. The only mildly new bits of this part of the agreement are that both companies will license parts of the technology and incorporate them into existing operating systems before the new company comes out with a complete operating environment, which probably won’t be for another three or four years at best. Also included as a little teaser is the fact that Apple and IBM are cross-licensing patent and visual displays, "including a limited license to the Macintosh visual displays." That last phrase leads me to think that OS/2 might sport a decent interface in the relatively near future, which certainly wouldn’t hurt in its battle with Windows.

Like it or not, Apple and IBM have signed the papers and all that remains now is to see what comes out when. I suspect the new companies will lay low for a year or so, much as General Magic has done. I’m sure the people at General Magic aren’t sitting around, but they also haven’t said anything new for some time now. Eventually something will show up.

Information from:
Apple/IBM propaganda

Adam Engst No comments

UG-TV Reply

After Murph and I were somewhat unkind in last week’s TidBITS about the UG-TV presentation, I think it is only fair to print Rye Livingston’s (a User Group Connection honcho of sorts) reply to all the comments that he’d received. This fits in with our TidBITS policy of "subjective, but fair." If I don’t like something, I’ll say so without hesitation, but I’d better back up what I say and allow reasonable rebuttal or I’m being unfair. For those of you who saw the UG-TV presentation (or have idea on it), please do send Rye mail telling him what you think. If Apple is going to provide a user Group Connection at all, the least we can do is support their efforts to help us.

Rye Livingston writes,

Thanks for your input and keep it coming…really! Your comments will decide if we do another broadcast, and if we do what the content and format will include.

We have been getting mixed reviews on the different segments of the UG-TV broadcast, and have learned a lot. Everyone agrees that the tour bus could have gone off a cliff in the beginning of the show and we all would have been better off. We were concerned about that bit too and you just confirmed our suspicions. Why was it in there in the first place you might ask? We were listening to the people who make these kinds of shows for a living, but they don’t know User Groups.

Now of course that would have only taken care of the "tour group", and we did receive all kinds of comments on every other aspect of the show. Some liked the roughness of not having professionals host the show and others wanted it more polished with hired actors. Some really liked the demos, some said they were flat. However, for every negative comment we have received at least four have been positive. Of course we did get 100% confirmation on how bad the tour group was…RIP.

There have been a number of comments concerning new product announcements. This broadcast was never positioned as a product introduction event. Magazines may have articles on upcoming Apple products, but we are not allowed to talk about them. If you look back at all the UG-TV announcements that we published and articles in MacWEEK and Computer Reseller News, there was no mention of introducing new products. If that was your expectation, then it is not surprising you were disappointed.

To set the record straight on the Q&A, it was scheduled to be 30 minutes long. It worked in rehearsal too, but when we were approaching the end of the show there was only 12 minutes for Q&A. This was very disappointing for everyone because we knew it was a cornerstone to the success of the show.

We were also trying to use America Online as a means to communicate during the Q&A but it didn’t work. Someone pointed out that I was sending signs to the director during the end of the show and he was right. I was writing "??? from AOL", trying to get that aspect going.

We attempted this TV broadcast for you, the User Group member. We could take the safe conservative route and continue with our monthly mailings thank you, but that isn’t really the Apple way. We tried something that has never been done before, and what makes it even more difficult is the different cross section of people who were watching the show; Community groups, Education, Corporate and Government groups. Unfortunately you can’t make everyone happy.

Apple has the most aggressive and comprehensive User Group program in the computer industry. A TV broadcast to the User Group community had never been tried before and thankfully most of you are seeing the big picture of what we tried to do; communicate with User Groups through new and innovative mediums. We gave it a shot and most of you are telling us that for our first try it was good. We have learned a lot! With your constructive input, we hope to try it again next year and make it better, a lot better!

Information from:
Rye Livingston, User Group Connection
[email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

The French Connection

by Jean-Philippe Nicaise with help from Vincent Florin, Benoit Widemann and Thierry Delettre
[Jean-Philippe, by the way, is instrumental in distributing TidBITS in France. Thanks! -Adam]

Take a jumbo, cross the water.

Last Sunday, back home in Reims, some wine growers told me that vintage will begin very soon in the Champagne area. Weather has been good, and the harvest will certainly be a very good one, maybe a "millesime!" If people worldwide especially appreciate our "local wine," we especially appreciate the Macintosh in France. To be honest, France is Apple Computer’s second market after the USA but before Japan, Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany (formerly West Germany).

During 1990, Apple Europe, established in August of 1988, reported sales of $1.576 billion, or 28.4% of Apple Computer’s entire sales. Not only that, but sales are still growing at 28% each year! Unlike the USA, Europe is a language and cultural patchwork which means Apple must do a lot of localization. In October 1990, when Apple unveiled the three low cost Macs, they made System 6.07 available in 13 different languages at the same time. Some new (fabulous?) markets are emerging – Eastern Europe and Soviet Union – and Apple is hard at work on new systems for them. As a proof of Apple’s belief in the European market, Apple opened a venture capital fund of $60 million in June 1990, they started a research centre mainly focused on communication products in Paris, and they will open a new production plant in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands (the other big one is in Cork, Ireland).

Europe is different. And I’ll try to use the biggest European market (France) to explain how much. Two weeks ago was the 8th edition of "Apple Expo," an Apple France-organized exposition which took place in Paris. No really big news since Boston’s Macworld Expo, except a general System 7 mania. This was the first time users could really touch it, feel it, and get the "new" 7.0 compatible applications. Apple released French Systeme 7.0 by mid July, about two months after the official international announcement. That’s a really very short time for translation of the whole package!

For a little more than a year now, the major American software companies have created subsidiaries in France. So we can now talk directly to Aldus, Claris, and Symantec (Microsoft already had one, but mainly because of the PC market). Some hardware vendors have also appeared, including RasterOps, GCC, and Farallon. How could we get our Mac stuff before? Only through local distributors. But this had two disadvantages: products were very expensive (five to twenty times the exchange rate!) and users (i.e. clients) weren’t as well treated as in the USA [Ed.’s note: So stop your griping here, it could be worse! :-)]. Copy protection was severe (though piracy wasn’t and still isn’t worse than on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean), translation and user-support were sometimes non-existent, and update policies very strange or nonexistent. Excel 3.0 VF (French Version) is the first Microsoft Mac product that is not copy protected. In 1989, ACI, mother company of ACIUS, used copy protection for "4eme Dimension" in France while they offered "4th Dimension" in the USA without copy protection and at half the French price.

Unfortunately, sometimes American publishers can act worse than some European publishers. Some companies strictly forbid American mail-order firms to deliver their software outside the USA just to protect their foreign distributors. A good example is Caere and its well-known OCR package, OmniPage, which costs $500 in the USA but $1500 in France. Same program, just translated and with less user support. Worse, banning of selling is restricted only to some countries and, if you are in an African country you can order and receive a program that runs only under the US system. Blah!

[Ed.’s note: And this isn’t even getting into the types of software, like various encryption packages, that are export-restricted by the US government.]

Some publishers agree to deliver outside the USA, but do not support users outside the USA. They tell them to ask to the local distributor for upgrades. Of course, the local distributor claims they cannot support these users because they bought the software in the USA. No way out! Many European users had this kind of problem with Adobe Type Manager 1.0 when they wanted to upgrade to version 2.0 later. They ordered in the USA simply because the localized version would have been available only many months later and they wanted good printing immediately.

Claris first gave the example of non-copy protected software (surprising? no, Apple philosophy is there). Early in 1990 they opened their subsidiary, Claris France, taking back their software from P-Ingenierie, one of the largest local distributors. They first came up with really interesting upgrade policies, nice user-support and a toll-free phone number! Strangely, HyperCard 2.x is not distributed by Claris France but by Apple France. Even more strangely, version 2.1 VF is not available yet (no date given) and no upgrade policy has been offered from version 1.x to 2.x. Symantec France, which opened in mid-1990, first reorganised its PC market, letting go its two PC local distributors. BR Publishing, Symantec’s Mac distributor, will certainly have trouble keeping their products. All this adds up to the users’ benefit. Considering the costs of Apple’s low cost Macs, having to pay half as much for a word processor as for your computer was simply crazy.

But the landscape is not all black – many companies act the good way. Software publisher Compose-Tel recently decided to translate and market two top-quality North American games, Darwin’s Dilemma and Tesserae. "Unfortunately most games for the Macintosh are still now marketed only in US version and users do not have support in case of trouble" says Igor Schlumberger of Compose-Tel. His company offers those games fully translated at 1.5 times the exchange rate, and with a one year free upgrade policy. A "premiere" in the French game software for the Mac! Compose-Tel’s other products, Rival, an anti-virus utility, and Souvenir, an advanced phone directory, follow the same rules – low prices and a free upgrade.

One of the most common problems Macintosh products find outside the USA is localization. I’d like all American programers to read, re-read, and read once more Chapter 14 of Inside Macintosh Volume IV: Worldwide Software Overview! [Ed.’s note: You heard him, folks, better check it out before you ship.] I’ve recently been offered an American copy of Symantec’s GreatWorks. In the spreadsheet module, when I type a figure the French way, that is "12,52" instead of "12.52", the application understands "1,252". Symantec should have used the ‘itl’ resources and noticed that I’m using a French system with the French figures standards. Grrr… On the other side, some programs could be considered model citizens. Backup Retriever by the French publisher Additional Design, a backup utility with personal and network capabilities, balloon help, Apple Event awareness, and 32-bit cleanliness also has the ability to localize itself live! If your system is French, menus and help are in French. If your system is English, menus and help are in English. And this with exactly the same application! Soon German and Italian languages will be available. No doubt American users will hear about it very soon since it’s already been translated!

As for now, the hard work for Apple France is to face the new low price policy and to reorganise its distribution circuits. General public stores FNAC and general mail-order firms CAMIF and UGAP have recently signed agreements with Apple France to market the Macintosh products, most of the software, and user-support. In order to face this new challenge, Apple France named as Marketing Director Francois Benveniste, who created the Apple Expo during his two years at Apple France from 1984 to 1986. Now, like many people around the world, we are looking forward seeing the new portables in a few days. And we remember that their modems were designed in Europe.

Information from:
Jean-Philippe Nicaise — [email protected]
Apple Europe propaganda