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ROM Troubles Over

If we had presses, we'd have to stop them for this story. Apple has dealt with the dirty ROM problem by making a deal with Connectix to distribute MODE32 free of charge (yes, you read that right) to all users. Not only that, but Apple will support MODE32 completely on their free Customer Assistance line (that's the free support line that anyone can call at any time, not the limited time number you can call for help with System 7). But wait, there's more, and we're not talking Ginsu knives here. Apple will be distributing MODE32 on all the licensed online services (including the Internet FTP site at ftp.apple.com, America Online, and Memory Alpha BBS, among others) and through dealers and user groups as well. For those of you who needed 32-bit cleanliness enough to buy MODE32 from Connectix (rather than just grumble like the rest of the world), Apple will buy that copy back from you. Just call the Apple Customer Assistance Center at the 800 number below and get information on where to send your original disk for a $100 rebate. If you paid more, you'll need a valid sales receipt, but Apple will pay up to $169 plus tax. If you paid more than that, you got rooked. The other two details are that you have to have purchased MODE32 before 05-Sep-91 and you must send in your disk before 31-Dec-91. So get a move on if you want your $100.

Of course, Apple can't please everyone with this move, but I think they should be coming close. Some people will hold out for the true new ROMs, little pins and all. There's no real reason to do that, though, since the system software has lots of patches for code in the ROMs. In other words, patching the ROM code with system software is already standard practice.

Then you'll get the belly-achers who are leery of patching the system software. These are the same people who think that all extensions (gotta get into using that word in place of INITs) are evil. The answer to these malcontents is that there's nothing wrong with patching the system with an extension either. Do you think Apple would include so many extensions of its own if there were? Basically the use of patching the system externally (at least from my non-programmer background) is that those who don't need the extension don't have to waste the space or memory on it. Come on, how many of you have kept the DAL Extension around even though you're never going to access a mainframe database?

Finally, there's going to be the group that aren't sure they can trust something like this from a company other than Apple. Apple certainly has this technology in house and will include it in future versions of the system software, but what they don't have is thousands of users and thousands of hours of use behind a patch based on their technology. Connectix has both of those. In addition, the programmers at Connectix are memory wizards. Apple did come out with their own virtual memory scheme, but Connectix will continue to develop Virtual because they can make run it faster than Apple's implementation. I wouldn't be surprised if MODE32 is similarly slightly faster than what Apple has been playing with. Oh by the way, this deal applies only to MODE32, not to any of Connectix's other excellent products. So please don't start posting them to the nets claiming that it's OK because of the Apple deal.

So overall, who wins? Users win because they get something for free that can increase productivity. Connectix wins because they're probably getting something from Apple in return for MODE32 (though they're not telling what), and at minimum, Connectix gains a huge amount of publicity and name recognition, which is nothing to scoff at. Apple wins because they are finally appeasing many angry users without charging a cent. The only people who don't win are those that used the dirty ROMs as a reason to slam on the Mac. You'll have to find a new whip, guys.

The main thing I regret about this entire issue is that it had to happen at all. If Apple had recognized the problem while developing System 7, they could have built a 32-bit patch into the system software. Alternately, if Apple had admitted the problem right after releasing System 7 and used the same escape route of distributing MODE32 for free, they would have avoided a lot of bad press. Still, I think the bad press that appeared in TidBITS, MacWEEK (thanks to Henry Norr, who also alerted me to this deal before I heard from Connectix), InfoWorld (thanks to Bob Cringely), and Macworld (the October letters section) played a large part in convincing Apple to follow this route. Along with Lotus pulling MarketPlace:Households, this event goes to show that people can affect the policies of multibillion dollar companies.

Connectix Corporation -- 800/950-5880 -- 415/571-5100
Apple Customer Assistance Center -- 800/776-2333

Information from:
Connectix/Apple propaganda