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Adam Engst No comments


Oops. Blew it again. Sorry. Charlie Mingo chastised us about the international localization issue Jean-Philippe brought up in TidBITS-086. We said that the relevant chapter was in Inside Macintosh IV, whereas in fact that chapter in Inside Mac IV is on "The Binary-Decimal Conversion Package." However, we meant to say that you should look in Inside Mac VI. Didn’t we mention that a serious localization problem is that Roman numerals are handled differently in France? 🙂 Charlie goes on to add, helpfully, that "Volume V, Chapter 1 also has a discussion of localization." Of course, if we had a full set of Inside Mac, I would have checked, but it’s hard to justify the expense when I’m not a programmer. Thanks, Charlie, for setting us straight on this.

Information from:
Charlie Mingo — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments


Apple’s becoming kinder and gentler in its old age. First Apple admitted that the dirty ROMs were a problem and licensed MODE32 from Connectix to give away for free. Apple will be doing something similar with Adobe Type Manager. After October 15th, you can call Adobe at the 800 number below and order a special version of ATM 2.02 that includes four Adobe Garamond typefaces for a whopping $7.50 for postage and handling. I called Adobe, and the rep indicated that this package would also be available through the normal Apple software sources. Since it may take between six and eight weeks for normal delivery, I hope Apple will post ATM online on the commercial services and via anonymous FTP from I checked there, and it wasn’t up yet, but that’s not too surprising. Apple products shipping this month will include a coupon you can send in with a check for $7.50, but it’s just as easy to use the 800 number and plastic money, assuming you’re in the US or Canada. Supposedly the offer isn’t valid in other countries, but I hope Apple doesn’t restrict electronic distribution of ATM because of that. Do keep in mind that ATM will suck enough memory (200K) that you won’t be able to use it with most applications on a 2 MB machine under System 7. Buy more memory – it’s worth it. Once again, thank you, Apple. Keep it up and you’ll give computer companies a good name despite themselves. 🙂

Adobe — 800/521-1976, ext. 4400

A quick reality reminder among the waves of CD-ROM frenzy. Information on CD is only as good as that information could be in another format. Just putting lots of information on CD does not make it good. The latest instance of this came when I heard that the Bureau of Electronic Publishing (a commercial firm with a nice governmental-sounding name) announced that it was releasing on CD-ROM the entire Monarch Notes series of "study aids" (better known in schools as "cheat sheets"). Wonderful. Just peachy. Now we can have a whole slew of students who can use a CD-ROM player but aren’t bright enough to work through Shakespeare or Hemingway on their own. Sheesh. Now a decent use of CD-ROM would be to provide the entire work in question with essays and criticism by people who study that author. Instead we get annotated summaries and plot synopses. And no, I’m not going to include the contact information for this CD-Schlock.

A while back we published some addresses of organizations that would accept old computer equipment and would in turn let you write it off on your taxes. Sometimes that’s the most economical way of selling an old computer. Another organization that accepts donations of old computers and peripherals is the National Cristina Foundation, a non-profit organization which doesn’t use the computers itself but instead passes them out to member organizations. You can contact them using the information below. Another organization that accepts used equipment but which is not an official non-profit (which prevents you from writing donations off on your taxes) is Project Gutenberg. Project Gutenberg is dedicated to creating and distributing electronic texts. Their goal is to have 10,000 etexts available by the year 2000, and so far they are on schedule with the ones that are currently available. As I said before, Project Gutenberg is not officially non-profit, but it is an extremely good cause and one to which many people have donated large amounts of time and effort. You can contact them by email at the address below.

National Cristina Foundation
42 Hillcrest Drive
Pelham Manor, NY 10803
914/738-1571 (fax)

Michael Hart
Project Gutenberg
405 West Elm St.
Urbana, IL 61801
[email protected]

Information from:
Gar — [email protected]
MacWEEK — 30-Jul-91, Vol. 5, #26, pg. 3
Michael Hart — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

Here Comes the Sun

The operating systems wars have become harder to keep track of than who hates whom in the Middle East and Central America combined. On the low end, Novell bought Digital Research and its version of DOS, called DR DOS (which was just updated). Microsoft will of course have to update MS-DOS to version 6.0 soon to keep up on that front, especially since IBM, through its agreement with Novell, can include DR DOS with the PS/2. On the high end, the ACE Consortium announced that they were going to have the next generation operating systems with Windows NT and SCO Unix. Not to be outdone, Apple and IBM formed a joint company to produce a separate operating environment based on the years of work Apple has put into the Pink OS. Confused? Good, scorecards are available at the door.

The latest entry into the ring (I think we’re well past fisticuffs now and are entering the domain of tag team professional wrestling) is Sun, the number one maker of workstations. In a clever marketing move, Sun (or actually SunSoft, the software branch of the company) renamed and renumbered its current operating system, turning into Solaris 1.0 in one fell swoop. That’s a pretty good move on its own, making Solaris seem like a hot new product when in reality it’s the same old SunOS. However, the true marketing coup came when SunSoft announced that Solaris 2.0 would run on the 80386 and higher as well, thus providing high end PCs with a full-blown Unix operating system.

Compatibility with DOS, and possibly Windows, will come with Solaris 2.0, but SunSoft isn’t really aiming Solaris at the small user. We’ve heard that Solaris will be one of the easier versions of Unix to manage and it does have the Open Look windowing interface, but it will still require some work to install and maintain, not to mention a good chunk of memory. Instead, the benefit lies with those people using high end machines on networks. Novell has announced that it will support Solaris 2.0, so Solaris should fit right into all those NetWare environments without too much trouble. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Sun’s move is that Solaris will probably be the first of the major operating systems to appear, sometime in the middle of 1992. I don’t know if it will please the object-oriented people quite as much as something like Pink, but Solaris will be here soon and will run on Sun’s SPARC machines as well as the high end PCs. High-end Macs are out for now, although they can hook to a NetWare network if present.

Information from:
Sun propaganda

Related articles:
PC WEEK — 09-Sep-91, Vol. 8, #36, pg. 1
PC WEEK — 02-Sep-91, Vol. 8, #35, pg. 1
Communications Week — 09-Sep-91, #368, pg. 1

Adam Engst No comments

Working Software Deal

Small software companies suffer as much at the hands of big business as do small publishing companies. In all likelihood, you haven’t seen any products by Working Software around recently. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you hadn’t even heard of Working Software’s programs. Last I knew, they publish Spellswell, a stand-alone spelling checker that claims to be able to catch and correct more types of errors than any other spell checker (sounds like Working Software should add Apple Event support and license it all over the place), Findswell, a standard file dialog file find utility, Lookup, which spell checks on the fly in all programs, and QuickLetter, a small word processing desk accessory for producing letters, printing envelopes and keeping track of addresses.

All of the above utilities have at one time or another received either four and half or five mice from MacUser, but they all suffer from one significant problem – lack of marketing clout. As a small company, Working Software can’t afford ads in the magazines and has to resort to various guerilla marketing techniques, most notably direct mail. The deal that prompted this article is their most impressive yet – buy QuickLetter (the latest version, which is System 7-compatible) for $69.95 and get StuffIt Deluxe 2.01 (with a coupon for a free 3.0), MacMoney 3.5, and Rival 1.1.8 for free. Quite frankly, if you want either the excellent MacMoney or StuffIt Deluxe (I use both happily, although I’ve never used Rival and always recommend John Norstad’s free Disinfectant for virus protection), it’s worth the price. Not only that, but Working Software guarantees that you’ll like QuickLetter or they’ll refund your money within 90 days, letting you keep the other programs. Needless to say, the offer only stands for a limited time and will probably end sometime early next year.

I was impressed at the generosity of this deal so I asked Dave Johnson, president of Working Software, how he manages to do it. He responded, "We have no other choice. There are almost no Mac software dealers left. We make a profit on it because enough people order. We carefully test each list before we mail, and we only mail if it will be profitable to mail to the entire list." From what I’ve seen, Dave is right – he targets the mailing quite well and it does get your attention, although in some ways I’m sorry that a small company must resort to this type of marketing to survive.

I asked what Aladdin and Survivor and the Rival people got out of it as well, being the generally curious sort that I am. Working Software pays cash for each copy they sell, and while it’s a small amount, Working Software takes all the risk and provides a great deal of market awareness for free. So the deal does benefit everyone involved. I’m usually leery of direct mail marketing (shades of Lotus MarketPlace), but in this case I think it’s not only justified and well-handled, but necessary for the survival of Dave’s company. In this day and age of corporate mergers and mega-conglomerates, small companies have to carve themselves a niche, and Working Software is doing it by clever marketing and by paying attention to what Macintosh users want.

Working Software — 800/229-9675 — 408/423-5699 (fax)

Information from:
Working Software propaganda
Dave Johnson, Working Software president
[email protected][email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

Boeing Fair

Last weekend, after punishing my body with a fast 5K road race that ended with a nasty uphill stretch, Tonya and I shuffled slowly around the aisles at the Boeing Computer Users Group Fair in the Seattle Center Expo Hall. Boeing is a large enough company (about 100,000 employees in the Seattle area alone) that its Users Group commands a lot of power. There were probably about 50 vendors of various types there, although it was a little hard for us to tell since we arrived late. Many of the vendors present were local PC manufacturers selling PC clones at incredible prices, such as $1750 for a capable, if not loaded, 486. Ouch! Somehow I doubt I’ll be able to snag a Quadra 900 for that kind of price.

More interesting was the conversation I had with the Radius rep while checking out a Color Pivot. Initially I was curious what would happen to the Radius Rocket accelerator once Apple introduced the Quadras, since it wouldn’t provide as impressive of a performance boost in comparison to the native power of the Quadras. However, Radius has come up with some truly neat technology that allows the Rocket’s 68040 to continue processing while the Mac’s internal CPU is working. I’ve seen information on a bunch of accelerators over the last few years, but this is the first one that is able to use both CPU’s at the same time. Right now the technology to provide this multiprocessing, called Saturn V, requires the user to activate the second processor by dropping an application on a Rocket icon on the Mac’s desktop. Alternately, you can double click on the icon, which opens a window that looks just like another Macintosh desktop, and once there, start another application. The Radius rep termed the abilities of Saturn V "primitive" in comparison with what it will be able to do in the future. Appropriately written programs will be able to distribute processing to the Rocket automatically, and at some point in the future, Saturn V might be able to sense CPU slowdown and take over some processing automatically. Such distributed processing wouldn’t suffer the slowdowns of other distributed processing schemes that have to run over a network, and if you really need significant processing power, you could fill a six-slot Mac with a bunch of Rockets and have them all working at once. Of course, that would cost a pretty penny, considering the Rocket lists for about $3500.

Less startling but cheaper and more immediately useful will be Radius’s PowerView, which is an external SCSI box that allows you to hook 12" and 13" monitors to the Classic II and the new notebooks. It does require Color QuickDraw, so it won’t help those of you with a Plus or SE, but it will soon support the Pivot and Color Pivot as well, which makes all three machines, the Classic II, the PowerBook 140, and the PowerBook 170, far more attractive for real work.

After talking the Radius guy for a while, we went over to check out a PC Color Pivot that happened to be running at the Aldus booth. It was equally as nice as the Macintosh version (and it’s so much fun flipping those suckers back and forth :-)), and we talked to the Aldus rep for a while too. He mentioned that PageMaker and FreeHand were getting some interesting new features that ought to help Aldus in its battle with Quark. PageMaker will finally be able to accept add-in modules in version 4.2, something which Quark XPress has been able to do for a while, and he claimed that 4.2 would also be fully System 7-savvy. I’d like to see some System 7-savviness with the table utility, and I’d also like to see some speed increases, but on the whole it sounded like Aldus was catching up nicely. Just out of curiousity, I asked him if Aldus had any plans to develop PageMaker for the NeXT, since Quark had backed out on porting XPress, leaving FrameMaker as the only DTP package on the NeXT. Unfortunately for NeXT people, I got the expected response, that NeXT simply wasn’t shipping enough systems for it to be worthwhile. Oh well, someone could make a killing by writing a good DTP package for that machine and putting it on the publishing map.

FreeHand 3.1 for the Mac will also become fully System 7-compatible, will import and export more file formats, and will support pressure-sensitive tablets from companies like Wacom. I’m sure some graphics people will be extremely interested to try out that feature, based on the interest I saw in pressure-sensitive tablets from some graphic designer friends a while ago.

Information from:
Radius rep
Aldus rep

Related articles:
MacWEEK — 17-Sep-91, Vol. 5, #31, pg. 1

Adam Engst No comments

Little Mac Books?

The latest in corporate sleaze comes from Que Corporation, which has just published a Macintosh book called The Little Mac Book by Neil Salkind. Hmm, that sounds familiar. Looking on my bookshelf, I see a slim volume entitled The Little Mac Book by Robin Williams. That’s strange, I didn’t think you were allowed to do that sort of thing, but apparently copyright law does not apply to book titles. Now that I know this I’m going to make a killing with my upcoming novel called The Iliad. Mine will be easier to read and probably shorter too. Homer can suffer.

Unfortunately, Robin Williams is suffering too. She’s often confused with Robin Williams the actor, and whenever I’ve recommended her book to someone, I always have to add, "That’s not Robin Williams the actor, although the book is excellent." No, this Robin Williams is a teacher at Santa Rosa Junior College and is a single mother of three. With all that to handle, I’m impressed she managed to write a book at all, much less one that’s as good as The Little Mac Book. For those of you who have not seen or heard of The Little Mac Book, it is a quick but complete introduction to the world of the Macintosh and is probably the best I’ve seen. I talked to April at Peachpit Press, the small Berkeley company that publishes The Little Mac Book, and she said that although Que’s book certainly hurts Peachpit’s sales, Robin Williams is the true victim. As an author of sorts myself, I can understand the pain of seeing your hard work undercut by a massive and impersonal corporation.

The cynical view of the situation is that Que Corporation saw how popular The Little Mac Book became in the year or so that it’s been out, knew that companies can’t copyright titles, and decided to cash in on Robin’s work. Peachpit is small, so Que was undoubtedly not worried about incurring the legal wrath of a publishing giant like McGraw-Hill or Microsoft Press. April at Peachpit said that she didn’t think the move was intentional or malicious, but I have trouble believing that the largest publisher of computer books, Que, would have been completely unaware of the popularity of Williams’s book. The person I called at Que wouldn’t comment on the situation, although that was probably just because she didn’t know. As with many unknown situations, if you don’t assume maliciousness, you have to assume ignorance on the part of Que. I’m not sure if that is much better, and it certainly won’t make Robin Williams happier.

It does surprise me that a title is not considered part of a book to the extent that it is covered by copyright law, especially since name of software and publications can be protected in various ways. I know it wouldn’t go over well if I decided to put out a HyperCard-based spreadsheet and called it Excell, and several years ago Infocom had to change the name of its product newsletter from the New Zork Times to the Status Line because of some lawyers from the New York Times masquerading as grues. Interestingly enough, one person on the Info-Mac digest suggested that perhaps this sort of case would not fall under copyright law, but under fraud, since Que was misrepresenting their book. Unfortunately, very few real lawyers frequent the nets, so as usual we have no legal opinions on the subject.

Robin Williams wrote an open letter to Que, and I quote. "There is nothing I can do about your undermining the sales of my book. There is nothing I can do about your riding on the wave of my book’s popularity. There is nothing I can do about the people who read the reviews and think they are buying my book and get yours instead. There is nothing I can do about the fact that you will seriously affect my livelihood that I have struggled so hard to create."

There may be nothing Robin Williams can do, but there are things that we can do. I would encourage you to write or call Que and complain about their marketing tactics. You can also write or call Peachpit to show your support, and most importantly, you can buy or recommend The Little Mac Book by Robin Williams to friends who are getting into the Mac. Peachpit has just released the second edition of the book, which includes a chapter on System 7. If you can’t find it at your local bookstore or computer store, first chastise them soundly and then order it directly from Peachpit Press for $14.95 plus shipping and handling. If I were in charge of Peachpit, I would also consider renaming the book "The REAL Little Mac Book."

Que Corporation
11711 N. College Ave.
Carmel, IN 46032
317/573-2583 (fax)

Peachpit Press
2414 Sixth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710

Information from:
Phil Ryan — [email protected]
Russell Aminzade — [email protected]
Michael Lutas — [email protected]
Charles A. Patrick — [email protected]
Gary Greene — [email protected]
Andy Baird