Tune in for the spring Apple rumors (cooler machines and QuickTime B&W) and a look at Notify!, a fascinating wireless paging application. For Internet users, read about the new mailing list and our fileserver, and everyone should check out the lowdown on video memory and speed increases for the IIsi and IIci. Speaking of speed increases, System 7 users should use System 7 Tune-Up, but be careful when installing it.
I don't enjoy making mistakes, but it does happen. In TidBITS-101, I suggested that a certain file available on ftp.apple.com held the full set of LaserWriter Plus TrueType fonts. Well, I was dead wrong and lots of people mentioned it to me, thanks. That file holds only the TrueType fonts that ship with System 7. It's difficult for me to download 900K files via FTP since I've only got a 2400 bps link right now, but I still should have checked more carefully. My apologies for misleading you. However, in my defense, the information I had from Apple said quite clearly that those LaserWriter Plus TrueType fonts would be posted on electronic services, so keep an eye out - the great folks who run ftp.apple.com are doing their best and that machine is an incredible network resource.
At least that was a simple factual error. In TidBITS-102, two of our articles implied that Apple's Developer Technical Support might not be doing a good job. It was never my intention to slam on DTS in any way - in the first instance I was just reporting what the developer had told me, and in the second instance, the problem stemmed from a lack of internal communication at HP. As Murph Sewall mused in his article on the DeskWriter C driver, HP is a very large organization and the person he talked to was simply ill-informed about how HP had been seeded with Quadras early on by Apple. For those of you who are wondering, yes, HP has a better driver for the DeskWriter C under beta test now, so we can hope to see it soon. In any event, thanks to Brian Bechtel of Apple Developer Support for setting me straight on this, and my apologies to everyone at Apple DTS.
Brian Bechtel -- email@example.com
Wow! Internet users responded so enthusiastically that the volume temporarily swamped the mailer at Simon Fraser University. (Those of you who cannot get to the Internet might consider asking for an Internet gateway, on America Online and GEnie, for instance.) We are still working on ironing out all the quirks (sorry about those multiple mailfiles some of you received), so please bear with us. A couple of people have commented that there is no automatic way to sign-off the list. We're working on that too, but for the moment, just send email to firstname.lastname@example.org telling us that you want to be removed from the list. We'll announce the automatic sign-off procedure when we have set it up.
Also, there have been a few problems with a few subscriptions because the SFU mailer has been unable to return mail for one reason or another. We're working on it, but if you sent in a subscription request that didn't bounce back to you and you don't receive confirmation or an issue, send mail to the administrative address or to me and we'll try to work it out.
Once again, if you want to subscribe to the list and have TidBITS sent to you each week, just send email to:
and you'll be added to the list. Thanks for the enthusiasm - the list received over 500 subscriptions in the first week!
No offense, but some of you have weird mailers. :-) There have been some requests to the TidBITS fileserver that it has been unable to respond to because the return address in the header is just too strange. I try to find a real address in all of those cases, but if you either don't have a normal Internet style address or don't list it in a .signature, I have no way of telling you that I can't send you the file you requested.
So if you have requested a file recently but have not received it, it's almost certainly because I can't find a return path to mail it back. Right now I'm mainly feeling bad about Mike Sisson <engcon!gemini!sisson_md%brutus.decnet> since he sent me personal mail asking me to send him the ResEdit template for editing the Finder after the fileserver failed to return it. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to reply personally to him either, and I know there are a few of you in the same boat, thinking that I'm a slug for not sending these files as I said I would.
So to reiterate, if you wish to request a file from the TidBITS fileserver, send email to:
with a single keyword in the Subject: line. Good words to try initially include help and index. Don't put anything else in the Subject: line, and don't bother putting anything in the body of the letter other than your Internet style address in case I have to respond manually. The most common pitfalls are:
Sending the request to my personal account.
Not putting the keyword in the Subject: line.
Not spelling the word "fileserver" correctly.
So if you watch out for those three, you're likely to be able to use the fileserver successfully without me having to help you out manually.
My sincere apologies to those of you who have been unable to use the fileserver, and I hope it has proved useful to those that have used it successfully (over 1750 times since the end of November, I may add!)
We couldn't fit these rumors in last week's issue, so in case you haven't heard, here's the latest. Two of the next Macs to show up will be a 68030-based LC and a docking notebook. The '030 LC is perhaps the more interesting of the two because it will address many of the complaints with the current LC. We've heard that it will sport a 16 MHz 68030 with a 68881 coprocessor, although a 16 bit data path will ensure that it will be slower than the SE/30, though probably a bit faster than the Classic II. Other enhancements will include extra VRAM so it can drive the Apple 13" at 256 colors from the on-board video and possibly even built-in Ethernet connections, undoubtedly to improve its standing in the corporate world. Such an LC will probably come in at about the same price and will undoubtedly be more popular than the current '020 LC. I would assume that Apple will have to release a new IIsi to help differentiate it from the '030 LC since the current IIsi running a 13" color monitor in 256 color mode from the onboard video isn't much faster than the current LC. (See below for ways to speed up a IIsi in that situation.) This '030 LC will probably be the machine that gets an internal CD-ROM drive sometime in 1992 and becomes the multimedia machine and even (in repackaged form) the consumer electronics Mac.
Lots of people have complained that Apple doesn't offer a notebook computer with a docking station. From what we've heard, that notebook is on its way, but people may still not be pleased because the notebook will plug into the docking station, but may have few or no external ports. One problem with shrinking the PowerBooks even further is that Apple is running out of space on the back of the case as it is. If they shrink the case, some of the external ports have to go, and that will save weight and space, and possibly some power too.
Interestingly, one of the speakers at the second Macworld keynote gave his top ten predictions for 1992, and the final one was that we would see non-Apple branded Macs by the end of the year. Given that Apple has worked with Sony on the PowerBook 100 and that General Magic will be licensing its software rather than trying to compete in the competitive and expensive hardware market, I think that prediction has some validity. It's also possible that the non-Apple Mac will come from RDI or one of the other companies that claims to have cloned the Mac. We'll see, but I'm not holding my breath.
Finally, for those with a Plus, SE, or Classic, QuickTime B&W should be out sometime in the spring. My impression is that it will work, but that's about it because you're pushing an incredible load on a slow CPU. Black and white movies will probably be OK in small windows at a low frame rate, but anything in color will have to be dithered down to black and white before it can be displayed. Some people are running into this on PowerBook 140s and 170s even now, since those machines have Color QuickDraw in ROM; they just lack color monitors.
by Ethan Munson
A few brief observations on Macworld San Francisco from a different viewpoint.
Multimedia, particularly captured video and animated video, continues to be very big. Another person in my research group looked at this stuff more closely than I, so he may have better insights. My eyes glaze over when I talk to the salespeople for these products.
Color printers are becoming affordable. There are three primary technologies that yield good quality:
dye-sublimation: beautiful, very expensive ($5/page)
thermal-wax: great saturation and cheaper ($0.50/page)
solid ink: less brilliant, plain paper, cheaper still
The solid ink appears to be the most practical technology. Ink-jet like guns melt the ink and shoot it onto the page. It ends up being cheaper than thermal-wax because the paper is less expensive and because the cost-per-page is proportional to the amount of ink placed on the page. Brother, one of the manufacturers, claims that the cost for a page of normal text is only four cents. In contrast, the cost of printing using the thermal-wax system is more or less constant, no matter how much color is placed on the page. Thermal wax is somewhat better for transparencies, though, because of the nice saturated colors.
The printers themselves are becoming affordable to businesses. The thermal-wax and solid ink printers were all under $10,000.
Normal laser printers are getting really cheap. TI has a 9 page-per-minute (ppm) printer with Level II PostScript for $2249. They have one doing 16 ppm for $3649. At the same time, printer resolution is increasing. Several manufacturers were pushing 600 dpi printers for reasonable prices.
SuperMac has a "full-page" black and white monitor which runs through the SCSI port. It uses lossless compression to keep the bandwidth down. This had me drooling, because I could use it with my Mac Plus, unlike most larger monitors. I can't afford one, but I want one. [Adam: One caveat to these SCSI monitors. I gather that because they are using the SCSI port they can only operate at the same bit depth as the main monitor. In comparison, I have a Micron Xceed card in my SE/30 that drives an Apple 13" color monitor at 256 colors even though my SE/30's internal monitor is only black and white.]
Extensible systems are showing up more in different types of programs. In the past, the only user-extensible programs were spreadsheets. However, extensibility seems to have arrived. I saw powerful macro languages in the Nisus word processor and the PowerDraw CAD program. One guy was showing how PowerDraw could be used to generate low level control instructions for a computer-controlled milling machine. [Adam: I also believe that both PageMaker 4.2 and Quark XPress 3.1 have add-ons that give them rudimentary scripting languages. In some ways, this user-extensibility is thanks to HyperCard's popularity.]
"Open-architecture." This is a buzz-word for systems which are designed to support plug-in modules. Third-party vendors are allowed access to the code (apparently for a fee). They create useful add-ons which manipulate the internal data structures. This has been around for a while with "plug-ins" for image processing software, but both Quark XPress and Canvas were touting their flexibility from this choice. The folks from PowerDraw seem to be thinking about doing this, too. They say that users don't think of macro-based extensions as being "part of the system." I think this means that the users don't like paying extra money for them, which they will for the more seamlessly integrated features added via an "open-architecture". [Adam: The most popular program that uses this method is of course Word 5.0 now, but it remains to be seen how many third party modules take advantage of Word's plug-in capabilities.]
Ethan Munson -- email@example.com
There has been some discussion recently of problems with System 7 Tune-Up, most notably in concert with Ethernet boards and MacTCP. The problems appear to be isolated to just a few people, however, and Apple strongly recommends that everyone using any flavor 7.0.x install System 7 Tune-Up. I suspect that the problems may stem from the installation process, but supposedly you can avoid the Installer by dragging the files to your System Folder. If you circumvent the Installer, make sure you install all of the files, making sure to turn off File Sharing before installing (I presume the file can't be replaced otherwise?) and drag the files to a closed System Folder so that they will definitely end up in the right places. Several people have used a beta version of MountImage to mount the disk image of the Tune-Up disk, a process which might be responsible for some problems. Tune-Up also bothered Chris Johnson's excellent Gatekeeper virus utility, prompting him to release version 1.2.2, which "works around problems in System 7 Tune-Up."
All in all, I concur with Apple that the System 7 Tune-Up is a good thing and everyone using System 7.0.x should use it. However, I'd add that it's probably best to restart your Mac with all the extensions off and to use the Installer if at all possible to make sure that everything is updated correctly. I almost wish I had a StyleWriter because the low memory handling and speed benefits of the Tune-Up aren't all that noticeable on a relatively fast machine with a lot of memory although I believe they are there. The new StyleWriter driver reportedly speeds up printing by a great deal, though, so those of you with StyleWriters should especially use the System 7 Tune-Up.
This article originally was part of our forthcoming special issue on System 7, but since it really isn't related to System 7 or software at all, we decided to include it here. If you don't care about the quirks of on-board video, skip to the next article. Those of you with an a IIsi or IIci should pay attention, though. There will be a quiz. :-)
When using on-board video, the IIsi and IIci don't use separate video RAM (VRAM). Instead, they use some of the dynamic RAM (DRAM) that makes up part of the standard system memory. (The Macintosh LC has separate VRAM on its motherboard.) As a default on the IIsi and IIci, 320K of DRAM is reserved for 8-bit color. Switching to black and white mode (with the Options dialog box in the Monitors Control Panel) frees up about 264K of DRAM for system and application use.
A IIsi or IIci user might ask, "Why does my Macintosh IIsi/IIci seem so slow when I have 256 colors or shades of gray turned on?" The explanation is that the video RAM sits in RAM bank A (1 MB of soldered on RAM on the IIsi logic board; four SIMM slots on the IIci). That makes this bank of RAM very busy (the more colors the busier). Consequently, access to anything else in this part of memory is slow. On the IIsi try adjusting the disk cache to at least 384K. As a result, bank A is all video RAM, disk cache and RAM used by the system. This makes the performance with 256 colors almost as good as in black and white. Setting the disk cache higher than 384K does not help much. This will also work with the IIci if you have four 256K SIMMs in RAM bank A. On a IIci, if bank A is not filled with 256K SIMMs (i.e. it is filled with 512K, 1 MB, 2 MB, 4 MB or 16 MB SIMMs) it is harder to keep applications from sharing that busy RAM bank. If possible, try boosting the RAM cache up to approximately the size of the memory in RAM bank A minus 600K and you should get similar results, but this can take away a lot of memory from your applications.
Eric Apgar -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Ever been in a restaurant and heard pagers going off all evening? It may start happening even more often now that the Mac can make the call that sets off the beep. At Macworld, Ex Machina showed Notify!, a new program that takes advantage of System 7 to deliver all sorts of information from a Mac to a pager, preferably one of the more advanced alphanumeric ones.
I've never used a pager before and Ex Machina wanted to make sure I got the idea, so they lent me one for the duration of the Expo. Luckily, the fancy one they lent out could be set to vibrate rather than beep loudly, which was a little weird, having this thing vibrating in your shirt pocket, but it was less embarrassing than scrambling for the silence button each time it went off during a conversation. There was no chance that I was going to get anyone else to page me while I was there, so I signed up for the football scores group some people from MacUser were putting together. That ensured that I had a vibrating pocket every half hour or so as the semi-finalists battled for Super Bowl berths. Those close games can be exciting. :-)
Football scores may be important to many people, but there are far more interesting applications of the Notify! software. Using Apple Events, Notify! accepts information from applications that support it, translates appropriately, dials a Hayes-compatible modem, and transfers the message to the pager network for transmission to your pager. You can also just type a quick message in for instantaneous transmission without having to interact with other programs. In the tests we saw at the demo, it took about three minutes for a message to get through, which is pretty quick considering the number of jumps. Using Notify! to send pages will generally be cheaper than using a standard pager since you don't have to have an operator type the message in, thus saving time and effort.
Some of the developers supporting Notify! include Claris, Microsoft, CE, Dayna, WordPerfect, and UserLand. Such wide ranging support means that you could have scheduling software send you notification of appointments, network management software could wake up the network manager when the network dies in the middle of the night, short email messages could come through immediately, stock quotes and the like could be routed directly to your pager for immediate action, and you could even have Resolve, HyperCard, or Excel tell you when they're done with a long process. One of the most intriguing applications came from Magnum Software with its TFLX voicemail product that can take calls, route callers around a voicemail system, and send messages via the paging network to alert technicians, for instance, to urgent service problems.
As fascinating as Notify! is, I suspect that you'll know instantly if it will be useful to you after reading this article. Some people simply don't want to be bothered when they are away from work. In contrast, the pager is limited in the amount of information it can take in and display, so if you're the sort of person who needs a lot of information at hand all the time when away from your desk, you'll probably be best off agitating with Motorola for cellular modems that can work with a notebook or laptop computer. That technology is still coming forward, getting cheaper, faster, and more standardized, but I feel that in the next two years it won't be at all strange to have a full-powered notebook machine that is connected wherever you go, at least in major cities. In the meantime, if you use (or obviously should be using) a pager now and you have a Mac, you should definitely take a look at Notify! because it has the potential to do a lot for you and if you don't get one of the quiet beepers, to interrupt a lot of dinners. The Personal Version is shipping now for $149 list price, and the Network Version for workgroups will list for $399 and will be available soon. Highly recommended.
Ex Machina -- 800/238-4738 -- 212/831-3142
Ex Machina and third party propaganda
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