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Adam Engst No comments


This is our last weekly issue for 1991, although I hope to release a special issue about ResEdit tricks that you can play with your System 7 Finder later this week. We’ll be taking a couple of weeks off for Christmas and will return in 1992 with TidBITS-100, our first issue distributed in the human-readable setext format. We hope to have a LISTSERV or mailing list set up soon, so you’ll be able to subscribe and have each issues delivered to your electronic door. Keep an eye out for announcements around that time. I also hope to attend this year’s Macworld Expo in San Francisco, dependent only on travel and lodging now that I’ve received a press pass from Mitch Hall Associates. Perhaps I’ll see some of you there at the netters’ dinner or on the floor.

Andrew Johnston, the outgoing president of Seattle’s Macintosh downtown User Group (dBUG), recently said that he’d seen an AppleLink announcement indicating that a 50[cts] charge will applied to all mail going out to the Internet from AppleLink. If that’s true, and I haven’t been able to confirm it, all I have to say to Apple is "Boo!" As this world gradually grows smaller and electronic networks play an important role in fostering communication, the last thing anyone needs is such a surcharge, which will create a financial barrier to open communication.

I’ve heard some rumors about various projects in progress at Apple (and forgive me if this is old news in MacWEEK – my subscription just started up again after running afoul of the Postal Service’s forwarding limitation). A docking station is in the works, along with a lighter PowerBook 100-type machine and some other portables, all of which will be able to act as SCSI devices like the 100 can. Some more 68030 Classics are coming, for some reason, and more interestingly, a color Classic. Wonder who Apple got a 9" color screen from? Apple is also working on a bug-fix extension for System 7, which is separate from System 7.0.1. From what I’ve heard, 7.0.1 isn’t a major improvement, but mainly provides compatibility for the new machines.

Mark H. Anbinder writes, "Your readers may be interested in the fact (gleaned from the 15-Dec-91 issue of TypeWorld) that Adobe has signed a distribution agreement with DEC under which Digital will serve as worldwide distributor for Adobe Illustrator 3.0 for Motif, for VMS and ULTRIX workstations running the Motif graphical user interface. It will ship with Adobe Separator software, and the expected suggested retail price is $995." [The platforms grow ever closer…]

We’ve heard that Microsoft has announced an update to Excel, version 3.0a, which works on the new Macintosh Quadras with the 68040 caches turned on. The update is free to registered owners of Excel, who should call 800/426-9400 to request it. The part number is 065/096-S12. In the meantime, you’ll have to turn the caches off, either with the Control Panel or with Alysis’s useful Quadra Compatibility INIT.

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

Adam Engst No comments


As you have probably heard, Borland International has taken over Ashton-Tate, makers of dBASE. What most of the press surrounding the affair has ignored is that Ashton-Tate also published several pieces of Macintosh software, most notably FullWrite Professional and Full Impact. Full Impact is a good, though not thoroughly impressive, spreadsheet, but FullWrite has always been a unique and powerful word processor which suffered from being slightly ahead of its time in hardware requirements. Users and aficionados of the program are concerned that it may be taken out back and shot, much as Borland’s Macintosh database, Reflex+, was some time ago. Discussion of what to do has started on the nets, and Larry Rymal and I have been working on an open letter to Borland’s president, Philippe Kahn, requesting that Borland continue to develop FullWrite, sell it to a third party, or release it into the public domain. If you have thoughts on this or wish to express support for the letter (which will be made available in TidBITS and on the nets when it is finished), please send email to Larry at [email protected] or at his snail mail address below.

Larry Rymal
Box 14127
Stephen F. Austin State University
Nacogdoches, TX 75962

Mark H. Anbinder forwards this bit from the Apple Technical Assistance Center.

QUESTION: There is a jumper located between the SIMM banks of the Macintosh Quadra 900, the jumper has two positions, 1M and 4M. It has been stated that this is for connecting an internal CD-ROM. If so, why is the logic board silkscreened 1M and 4M? If it is not for connecting CD-ROM, what is it for and when would it be changed between the two settings?

RESPONSE: The jumper you are referring to on the Macintosh Quadra 900’s logic board is for stereo audio input, and would be used when installing and connecting an internal CD-ROM player’s audio output to the logic board. Note that the 4 pins of this jumper, J16, are numbered 1 through 4 and as such are marked 1 and 4 – not 1M and 4M.

When you install an internal CD-ROM player and intend to use it for audio, remove the two jumper blocks on the Quadra 900’s logic board, then connect the audio cable from the CD-ROM audio-out to this jumper. If you are using an internal CD-ROM drive for digital information only, the jumpers may remain untouched and in place.

Incidentally, you can hear audio CDs played in internal CD-ROMs wired this way through the system speaker or through any external speakers you may have connected to the external sound out. CDs, system beeps, and other system sounds will be heard through the speakers as well.

This integration of the audio signals into the computer provides three functions that are important for multimedia applications: (1) the ability to play audio from the CD-ROM through the internal sound system, (2) the ability to mix audio from the CD-ROM with computer-generated sound, (3) the ability to perform digital recording of audio from the CD-ROM.

Information from:
Larry Rymal — [email protected]
Mark H. Anbinder — [email protected]
Apple Technical Assistance Center

Adam Engst No comments

PowerBook Problems

Despite being extremely cool machines, the PowerBooks have not been immune to unpleasant hardware quirks. We wrote some time ago about the possibility of destroying your PowerBook’s motherboard if you opened or closed the case for service while its power was turned on.

Unfortunately, two new problems have cropped up, one with the floppy drives and primarily on the PowerBook 140, the other with the hard drives on certain models of the 140 and 170. Bill Marshall wrote to tell us about the problems he has found reading certain mass-produced disks (like master copies of commercial software, in all likelihood). After talking to Apple, it turns out to be an interference problem with the backlit display. Turning off the backlighting solves the problem temporarily, and Bill said that Apple told him he could have an RF shield installed for free "if you have the machine picked up and returned to central service." I assume that means Apple has to do the installation, although one would think dealers would be able to do it as well. Bill added later that he had noticed some seemingly random difficulties in formatting disks as well, and remembering the fix for reading disks, he turned off the backlighting, after which all was fine. So if you’re having floppy troubles, try turning off that backlighting before you blame either the floppy disk or the disk drive itself. Then complain to Apple.

Here’s an odd problem with an easy solution. Apparently, some people have been having troubles with the hard drives in the PowerBook 140 and 170 crashing the system when they wake up from sleep. Apple’s engineers have ignored the obvious cause – the hard drives are having nightmares and should be woken up gently – and instead say an incorrect version of the HD SC Driver is installed on the disk. Luckily you can fix the problem quickly and easily by booting the PowerBook with the Disk Tools disk, launching HD SC Setup (Apple has got to rename that program – way too boring!), and selecting Update. This updates the PowerBook hard drive to the correct version of the driver and your hard drive will have sweet dreams again. Like penguins, PowerBooks dream in color. Oh, you don’t have to reinitialize the disk or reinstall the System Software or anything nasty like that, and your data should be fine. But still, I’d back up my important files first. Also, you can tell if your PowerBook might be sleeping fitfully if its serial number begins in the range F2140-F2141. I doubt taking it to a shrink would help with the bad dreams – the PowerBooks are awfully small already. 🙂

The final oddity that I’ve run across recently is that there are actually two different fax modems for the PowerBooks, one for the US, Japan, and Canada, and the other for Europe, Australia, and "some South American countries." I wonder what the other South American countries do? Anyway, the question of how you could get a different fax modem stumped the extremely pleasant woman at Apple’s help line for a short while, but she quickly returned to tell me that you can request either fax modem when you buy one separately or when you buy a 170 with internal fax modem. You do have to explicitly ask for the European/Australian/some South American one if you are buying it here in the US, since I suspect that many dealers aren’t aware of the two versions. The dealer I called, one of the largest in Seattle, certainly wasn’t. I presume that if you buy a PowerBook 170 or fax modem in Europe, you get the appropriate version, although you probably pay a lot for the privilege from what I’ve heard.

Information from:
Bill Marshall — [email protected]
Darlene at Apple Tech Support

Adam Engst No comments

A Few Games

I had hoped to write about more games in this article, or even to do an issue on games, but it just isn’t going to happen. Partly I haven’t had time to play too many games (I never do, it seems), and partly I didn’t receive responses from companies like Spectrum Holobyte and Maxis. Oh well, too bad on them – now I won’t get to say nice things about their programs. Delta Tao and Berkeley Systems however do win out, particularly with Spaceward Ho! and Lunatic Fringe.

First, this is my method of deciding if a game is good or not. I spend a lot of time testing software and writing, and I never lack something productive to on my Mac, so I don’t often play computer games. I often try PD/Shareware games and the occasional commercial game, and the true test of a game is if I continue playing it after a couple of test runs. I suspect that this situation is not the norm, so if you have tons of time to play games you may not agree with some of my impressions.

I’ve been playing three sorts of games these last few months, strategy, arcade, and board games (which generally end up being puzzles of a sort). In the strategy section I’ve mainly played Delta Tao’s cowboy space opera Spaceward Ho! over their other entry, Strategic Conquest. Why? Quite frankly, I have more fun playing Spaceward Ho!. Strategic Conquest puts you on an island with a single army-producing city. The goal is simple: conquer the other cities on the island, have them produce various types of ships and airplanes, explore the rest of the world, and kill anything you meet. Each army, ship, or airplane gets its own chance to move, and after you’ve been playing for a while it becomes tedious to attend to all the pieces, even though you can put them to sleep to avoid dealing with them. For me, Strategic Conquest wants too much guidance for actions that may not be interesting, such as directing a tank to drive to a seaport and board a transport ship. Such detail makes Strategic Conquest far more realistic than Spaceward Ho!, which handles more of the routine actions for you, but I guess I’m not interested in too much realism in a strategy wargame. A personal foible, I’m sure, since I never liked the graph-paper wargames as a kid either. If you do enjoy that sort of game, you’ll love Strategic Conquest.

Spaceward Ho! avoids the extreme realism with a liberal dose of humor, all in the name of playability. Planets have wonderful icons that identify whether or not they belong to you or to another player and whether or not they will ever be profitable. When you send a fleet away from a planet or call one back, appropriate cowboy sounds play. In addition, you control everything in Spaceward Ho! with a set of simple bar graphs and an easy click and drag interface, removing it greatly from the blood and guts realism in Strategic Conquest. One final humanistic note: in Spaceward Ho!, when you colonize a planet, you get a population; in Strategic Conquest, conquering a city lets you decide what sort of war machine it should produce. I’m not going to try to cover Spaceward Ho! more here since Ken Hancock did an excellent job in his review of it in TidBITS-056.

Both Spaceward Ho! and Strategic Conquest can be played over an AppleTalk network, and Strategic Conquest can also be played via modem. As with most computer games, having the computer around when you’re alone is great, but beating up on your friends over the network is even more fun. A friend and I played Spaceward Ho! over the network for about 6 hours straight before being pulled away by a prior commitment. Luckily we resumed later that night so I could take over the universe.

Both Strategic Conquest and Spaceward Ho! can be fast paced in big games, but nothing beats Lunatic Fringe for good clean arcade action. Lunatic Fringe’s main claim to fame is that it is actually a screen saver in the More After Dark package (an excellent package in its own right, and a good present – whoops, that reminds me I have to order it for my uncle; don’t tell him). Programmed by the talented Ben Haller of Solarian II fame, Lunatic Fringe is essentially a jazzed-up, weirded-out version of Asteroids, complete with some of the best sounds this side of Spaceward Ho! and the meanest enemies around. If you like jetting around the known, though fairly small, universe avoiding asteroids and numerous types of nasties while collecting yummies and points, you’ll find little more enjoyable than Lunatic Fringe. [Just don’t let anyone accidently move your mouse while you play. Evidently I destroyed one of Adam’s best games by jiggling the mouse pad at a bad moment. -Tonya]. To those who complain that a screensaver shouldn’t be a game, I say "Humbug!" Screensavers are fun, and Lunatic Fringe is fun, and if you don’t like it your monitor might have an off switch that works as a screensaver and conserves energy too.

Tile’s Play bridges the gap between the previous category of arcade games and the next category of board games. The game resembles those slide puzzles with one piece missing, although in Tile’s Play each piece has one of several tunnel sections on it. You must move the pieces around, connecting the correct ones to form a tunnel, a task which wouldn’t be easy even if you had a lot of time. You have more than a time limit, though. After you’ve been working a short time, a small yellow ball starts rolling from one corner of the screen through the tunnel you’ve built for it to the other corner of the screen. It doesn’t roll quickly, but there’s no way to stop it (short of creating a tunnel loop, I guess). Lest that seem too easy, some tiles are locked in place (luckily clearly marked), and there are two other entities that travel in the tunnels and appear in higher levels. The first just tries to eat your yellow ball and you have to make sure to keep it out of the tunnel you’re building. The second doesn’t hurt your ball, but can randomly cause tunnel sections to mutate, ruining your carefully-laid plumbing. You’ll find Tile’s Play a twisty, stressful game as you struggle to get your yellow ball to the other side of the screen, and little is more nerve-wracking then when you have to move the tile that actually holds the rolling ball so it can bridge an otherwise fatal gap. Tile’s Play is $15 shareware from Suresh Kumar ([email protected]) and currently requires a color monitor. Highly recommended.

In the straight board game section, I usually find myself playing Stained Glass, $25 shareware from Nick Schlott. Like Tile’s Play, it appears to require a color monitor. Unlike most of the other games I’ve talked about here, Stained Glass is not intuitively obvious. It resembles those games where you try to remove all but one peg from the board by jumping one over another repeatedly. In Stained Glass, that simple action is complicated by the colors of the panes of glass in the 6 x 12 grid. The grid has three primary colors, red, blue, and yellow, and three secondary colors, green, pink, and orange, which are the result of two primary panes being on the same square. Stained Glass has four different types of jumps. First are those jumps where a primary color jumps over another primary color to an empty space, deleting the jumped pane. Second are the jumps when a primary color jumps over a secondary color that contains a component of that primary color, at which point the component is subtracted. (Remember which colors make up which other colors? Good, I don’t.) The third type of move is when a primary color jumps another primary color, but lands on another primary color after doing so. The jumped pane is deleted, and the pane that is landed on combines with the pane that did the jumping to create another color (that’s why you can’t land on a secondary color, since blue plus orange equals mud, as the excellent help section tells us). The final type of move is the simplest, where a secondary color like green jumps another secondary color to either land on an empty square or another pane of green. In either case the jumped pane is deleted. Hmm, it sounds confusing, but it’s actually fun and extremely challenging to play. I wish I was better at colors – I find it difficult to remember all the possibilities and in the process make too many random moves.

Delta Tao’s pair, Strategic Conquest and Spaceward Ho!, and the More After Dark collection from Berkeley Systems (which requires After Dark 2.0v, by the way) should all be available from your favorite purveyor of commercial software. Tile’s Play and Stained Glass you’ll have to find on the nets or in a user group’s shareware library, but any of these games would make a good present for someone wanting to play games on the Macintosh this holiday season.

Information from:
Delta Tao documentation
Tile’s Play documentation
Stained Glasss help

Adam Engst No comments

Wallpaper Your Mac

I’m great fan of making your computer more fun to use. After all, if you spend a lot of time on the Mac, it becomes part of your working environment. Most of us hang pictures in offices or keep photos on our desks (I have a Wall of Fame above my Mac where I tape the outer boxes to all the programs I’m sent). I’ve been extremely fond of DeskPicture, the utility that comes with the Now Utilities 3.0, because it can install pictures on the desktop on both my external 13" color monitor and my SE/30’s internal monochrome monitor. There’s a problem with DeskPicture though. Even though DeskPicture picks a random picture from a set each time I boot, I don’t have many good pictures, and I can’t keep many on my disk at once because of the space crunch.

Now I have an alternative, and so far I like it a lot. A tiny newcomer to the market, aptly called Thought I Could (TIC), has released Wallpaper, perhaps the most powerful Control Panel device ever created. Wallpaper allows you to create and display patterns on your desktop instead of pictures. Before you say, "So what, I can do that with the General Control Panel too" let me add that these patterns can be in up to 256 colors and can be up to 128 pixels square in size. Not only that, but Wallpaper allows you to save and load patterns, and can switch among them randomly at whatever time interval you want. If you don’t like the idea of a chameleon desktop under your word processor, you can have Wallpaper use a single pattern or just pick a random one at startup each time. That the General Control Panel cannot do.

I enjoy creating patterns. TIC provides familiar and functional painting tools, and has even figured out how to make the patterns easily overlap (which they will have to do on the screen), so creating great designs is a piece of cake. You can paste graphics into Wallpaper and modify them to make truly strange patterns. Murph Sewall sent me picture taken of him with a Canon XapShot, which I promptly made into a psychedelic pattern in red and purple. Wallpaper has zooming capabilities, an eyedropper to determine the color of a specific pixel, and a rubber stamp tool with sixteen different images. Perhaps the most interesting ability for creating patterns comes with the Grab Pattern… option from Wallpaper’s menu (it’s not a tool). Select it, then click anywhere on the screen to capture that image as a pattern. Seriously funky possibilities here.

One of the most interesting parts of Wallpaper is the Control Panel’s drag & drop interface. To start a new pattern you drag the old one off the easel; if you want to store a pattern you’re working on you can drag it from the easel to one of ten holding areas; to view what you’ve done so far you (or any of the patterns in the holding areas) just drag the pattern to the iconic Mac’s monitor; to save a pattern drag it to the CPU of the iconic Mac; and to load a new one, drag the Mac to the easel or one of the holding areas. It’s very smooth and an excellent implementation of the drag & drop idea. I found the pop-up tools menu fairly clumsy, although TIC thoughtfully provided easy keyboard shortcuts that don’t require the command key to be down. A number of these drag & drop functions are duplicated in the single drop-down menu at the top of the Control Panel. Nice touches abound. If you go to the Standard File Dialog box to open patterns, you will find a preview box that shows you what the pattern looks like, and you can click on that preview box to display the pattern temporarily on the entire desktop. If that’s not enough, patterns generally (taking desktop oddities into account) have icons that reflect the pattern, so you can tell what the patterns look like just by glancing at the icons in the Finder. When you want to create a pattern of your own, Wallpaper gives you a chance to name it and list yourself as the author – if you modify someone else’s pattern you can list yourself as a secondary author too. The About Box has a cute animated train (yes, the one that managed to make it to the top of the hill by chanting the childhood mantra, "Think I can. Think I can." and when it managed the summit, "Thought I could. Thought I could."), and you can have optional cheery train noises whenever you drag a pattern or tool around.

Wallpaper has several advantages over DeskPicture, most notably that it takes up less disk space and RAM. DeskPicture claims it takes up 322K to display two pictures on my double monitor SE/30, where as Wallpaper, even set to use "A Lot" (that’s a technical term in the Wallpaper Preferences) of memory, requests in the System Heap (but does not use all of in normal operation unless you are creating patterns) approximately 200K less. I didn’t test this, but other memory settings include "Some," "More," and "A Whole Lot." Refreshing terminology. In terms of disk space, patterns come in several different sizes as far as I can tell, ranging from about 19K for a 128 x 128 pattern to 1K or 2K for small 8 x 8 patterns. Compare that to the approximately 200K pictures I used to throw on my screen with DeskPicture. Of course, TIC ships a bunch of patterns with Wallpaper, and is starting an inexpensive subscription service to distribute more. In addition, people will upload their creations to the online services. Like After Dark modules, Wallpaper patterns may end up consuming a large amount of disk space for those who wish to collect them all.

TIC has created an excellent demo version of Wallpaper that is fully functional with a few limitations (so functional in fact, that I used it for this review). You can’t save patterns to disk or to the System file. The demo stops randomizing after two hours and reverts to the normal desktop at that point. Wallpaper’s supplementary applications, Wallpaper Hanger (a utility for quickly installing a certain pattern) and Customiz-O-Matic (which allows you to install or remove the custom icons) also aren’t included. You don’t receive nearly as many patterns as are included in the real version, and finally, TIC took out the Easter Egg. The demo, available on most online services by now, is well worth checking out. I wish more companies put out such functional demos – it makes it far easier for potential customers to evaluate the program. If you want to purchase Wallpaper, TIC has a special introductory price of $39 plus $5 for shipping in the US (normally $59.99 retail) through January 1992, and dealers and mail order houses should have it soon. It’s a fun gift, and it even comes with some holiday patterns. Highly recommended.

Thought I Could
107 University Place, Suite 4D
New York City, NY 10003
[email protected]
[email protected]
LindaK on AOL
(TIC actively supports Wallpaper on all three electronic
venues in my experience)

Information from:
Linda Kaplan, Thought I Could President
Wallpaper documentation & propaganda