Want to add auto-correct functionality to Eudora? Read on for instructions and the link to the necessary auto-correct dictionary. Then it's time to learn about different options for repairing your Mac and how Apple is quietly changing service policies in ways you may not appreciate. In the news, the Mac OS X beta lines up for 13-Sep-00, the Palm sees its first Trojan Horse, and we cover updates to VSE Link Checker 3.0, SoundJam 2.5.1, and Eudora 4.3.3.
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Mac OS X Public Beta Set for 13-Sep-00 -- At last week's Seybold Seminars in San Francisco, Apple iCEO Steve Jobs announced the company would release its long-awaited public beta version of Mac OS X on 13-Sep-00. The announcement lets Apple fulfill its promise to get the public beta out in "Summer 2000," as the season ends in the northern hemisphere about a week later. The full launch of the software is slated for January of 2001. Jobs didn't specify whether the beta software would be available for a free (but extremely large) download, or whether it would be sold to users. [MHA]
First Trojan Horse Hits Palm Platform -- According to McAfee Associates, a Trojan Horse has been discovered that affects users of Palm OS-based handheld devices, such as those from Palm, Handspring, IBM, TRG, and Sony. (A Trojan Horse is a program that hides malicious intent behind something that appears desirable. Unlike a virus, which most outlets have been calling this problem, a Trojan Horse spreads when a user deliberately installs it, thinking it's something it isn't.) The LibertyCrack Trojan Horse masquerades as a tool designed to defeat the shareware protection of the legitimate software Liberty, which lets Palm OS users run Nintendo GameBoy games. Instead, it attempts to delete all applications from the handheld and reboot it. On a Palm OS handheld, the Trojan Horse will appear in the Applications launcher with the same icon as the Liberty application and the name "Crack 1.1." [MHA]
VSE Releases Link Checker 3.0 -- VSE has released Link Checker 3.0, adding features that expand the number of Web URLs it can verify (see "Tools We Use: Link Checker 2.5" in TidBITS-537). The new version supports the HTTP 1.1 specification, plus user authentication and cookies for connecting to Web sites that require such input. Link Checker 3.0 also tests an unlimited number of links (restricted only by available disk space), and creates reports in plain text as well as HTML. Link Checker 3.0 is available as a 1.6 MB download. A free demo is available, which can be registered for $35 for the standard version (which tests one Web site), or $100 for the unrestricted Business version; upgrades are free for owners of previous versions. [JLC]
SoundJam MP 2.5.1 Continues to Evolve -- Casady & Greene has continued their history of significant feature updates to SoundJam MP Plus, the company's popular MP3 player and encoder. New in version 2.5.1 is support for broadcasting from your Mac to Internet rebroadcast services, a tuner for finding Internet music streams, support for both CPUs of the new dual-processor Power Mac G4s in encoding, conversion to WAV format, improved interface niceties when controlling portable MP3 players, support for the Nomad Jukebox, numerous enhancements to the playlist functionality, and a wide variety of other minor changes. Especially welcome are the major speed increases in the Playlist Composer feature that enables ad-hoc creation of playlists - it was too slow in 2.0, as we noted in "SoundJam Keeps On Jammin" in TidBITS-535. Still missing, however, is an improved Alarm Clock interface that doesn't rely on closing the Alarm Clock window to confirm and apply time setting changes. SoundJam MP Plus 2.5.1 is a free update (2.9 MB download) for registered users; it now requires Mac OS 8.1 on at least a 100 MHz PowerPC 603-based Mac. [ACE]
Minor Tweaks in Eudora 4.3.3 -- Qualcomm has released Eudora 4.3.3, a minor update to its widely used email program. Version 4.3.3 fixes a crashing bug on fast Macintosh systems (the release notes aren't more specific), and improves password security for folks who don't have Eudora save their email account passwords for them. If you're not experiencing problems, we recommend ignoring 4.3.3 and waiting for Eudora 5.0, which is currently in public beta. The update is available in two forms: a 613K patch that will update version 4.3.2 to version 4.3.3, and a larger 5.2 MB updater that will upgrade any version of Eudora 4.x to version 4.3.3. Eudora 4.3.3 is available only for PowerPC-based Macs; the latest version for 68K-based Macs is currently 4.2.2. [GD]
Poll Results: Them Tomes, Them Tomes -- Brick-and-mortar bookstores still have a place in the hearts and minds of TidBITS readers, to judge from the results of last week's poll question asking what factors most influenced your decision to buy a computer book. 66 percent of the respondents said that flipping through a copy of a book was important, followed distantly by published reviews at 42 percent, word of mouth at 35 percent, and reader-contributed reviews at 30 percent. Plenty of respondents (19 percent) voted for Other and told us in TidBITS Talk that we should have included Author, Publisher, and Book Series as options. I was interested to see that only 16 percent of respondents felt that special pricing was important, and only 9 percent felt they were significantly influenced by bookstore descriptions of books or author sites or events (and I have to say that book signings are often pretty sparsely attended these days). Coming in dead last as an influencing factor was advertising, but that may be in part because advertising for computer books is extremely scarce.
Also featured prominently in TidBITS Talk last week were suggestions for beginning Macintosh books and AppleScript books (most of which focused on Internet resources, since there aren't many AppleScript books available). [ACE]
Poll Preview: 68K or Bust?! Before there were candy-colored iMacs dual processor G4s, or convection-cooled cubes, Apple spent more than a decade building "68K Macs" based on the Motorola 68000 processor family. Many of these systems (ranging from the original 128K Mac through the once-mighty Quadras and several iterations of the PowerBook line) are still in use today for word processing, email, and various server duties (TidBITS Talk is served from an 11-year-old SE/30!). But the longevity of these systems owes as much to software as hardware, and these days most software is developed only for PowerPC-based systems. So this week we ask: Do you still use a 68000-based Macintosh, and if so, do you attempt to keep its software up-to-date? Vote on our home page! [GD]
by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
As most of you know, I'm not a programmer - I can handle macros and was moderately accomplished with HyperCard scripts back in the early 1990s. But I still wanted to present a hack at the MacHack developers conference back in June, so I decided to do what I do best - gather information from a variety of sources and put it together in a useful form.
Another Secret in Eudora -- A while back, I learned from Steve Dorner that the internal spell checker in Eudora 4.2 and later included a feature that he hadn't exposed. It's essentially an auto-correct function, much like the one in Microsoft Word that automatically fixes common misspellings and typographical errors as you type. Why force the user to fix such mistakes manually later on, when you can do it automatically as text is entered?
Steve chose not to expose this feature in Eudora since creating an interface to it would have been ugly, so Eudora doesn't offer a dictionary containing misspelled words and their replacements. When I learned of this feature, I immediately searched the Internet to see if I could find such a dictionary that could distribute, much as I did with my personal user dictionary of technical terms and names. No luck - I found many dictionaries and even some research into typing mistakes people tend to make, but nothing quite right. Of course, I knew precisely where such a dictionary lived - in Microsoft Word - but it wasn't a text file.
The next step was to complain about this to TidBITS's Technical Editor Geoff Duncan, who promptly extracted the word pairs out of Word's auto-correct dictionary. So now he and I had an auto-correct function in Eudora, and Steve had given me permission to tell the world about this feature (as long I tell you it isn't a supported feature, so don't complain to Qualcomm if it doesn't work right). However, I couldn't distribute Microsoft's dictionary. Theoretically we could have written a script to extract the words and create a dictionary, and although that might have been technically legal, it wouldn't have been gentlemanly. I was stymied.
AutoCorrect at MacHack -- Nonetheless, I showed this feature off at MacHack, hoping someone could help me find or create an auto-correct dictionary that could be freely distributed. While working on my demo - which mostly involved thinking of the pun in the title, writing an email message with numerous typos, and making sure my sample replacement dictionary had the appropriate replacements - a solution presented itself. Micah Alpern, a Princeton student who was inspired to attend MacHack after reading our articles about the 1999 conference, said that he was a lousy speller, and as a result had created a several thousand word dictionary of exactly this type for use with WordPerfect, which also had an auto-correct feature.
My demo was pretty bad. It happened somewhere around 4 AM as I was rapidly losing coherence. But I survived, and was even awarded a truly annoying prize - a four-foot long wooden stake. (The Hack Contest organizers, who get even less sleep than everyone else, buy all the prizes at Duke's Hardware, and somehow made a connection with my hack's title and stakes being used to kill vampires). Needless to say, flying home with large splinter-producing stake presented a challenge, but if everything goes as planned, the stake will rise from the undead next year.
Share & Enjoy -- After MacHack, Micah sent me his word list, to which I promptly added other correction pairs I've accumulated based on editing TidBITS Talk. Now everyone who uses Eudora on the Mac can take advantage of this auto-correct feature. Simply download and expand the TidBITS AutoCorrect Dictionary text file, drop it in your Eudora Spelling Dictionaries folder, and launch Eudora. From then on, Eudora will automatically fix mistakes contained in the TidBITS AutoCorrect Dictionary as you type. (And yes, it will make sure that everyone capitalizes TidBITS correctly from now on!)
The text file itself is easily created, if you want to make your own. It must start with a line containing only "#LID 1033 0 3" and go on to list replacement pairs (the misspelled word, a colon, and then the correction), one set per line. The misspelling must be a single word, but the correction can contain multiple words, up to a maximum of about 64 characters. You can't put a return in the correction text (since that starts a new line) and there may be other non-kosher characters. Feel free to add or delete words from your copy of this dictionary - just make sure to save as a text file when you're done.
The main annoyance I have with Eudora's auto-correct feature is that it takes hints about case from the misspelled word. So, if you write PB, Eudora's auto-correct feature would try to replace it with "POWERBOOK" rather than "PowerBook".
In the spirit of MacHack and of the open source theme that permeated the conference, Micah and I decided to place this auto-correct dictionary in the public domain for use with any program that can take advantage of it. Share and enjoy!
by Adam C. Engst <email@example.com>
A number of unrelated events have recently brought the issue of repair service to the forefront of my mind. It's easy to ignore the topic because Macs are usually quite reliable. Nonetheless, since older Macs often remain in service well into obsolescence, something will eventually break. Sometimes handling a repair yourself is easiest, but sometimes your only real options are working with an Apple Authorized Service Provider or sending the machine directly to Apple. However, recent changes to Apple's service options for newer machines threaten to confuse that decision-making process.
Looking for Cheap Repairs -- The first of my recent hardware troubles happened in June: I returned from MacHack to find our primary internal file server at home - a Power Mac 8500 - wasn't running. No amount of cable swapping, button pushing, or persuasive language convinced it that it was getting any juice at all. Clearly, its internal power supply had given up the ghost.
Used Power Mac 8500s aren't that expensive, so although I wanted to get it working again, I didn't want to pay full rate from an Apple dealer for a replacement power supply. Shreve Systems would trade a new power supply for my old one and $400. Too high. Sun Remarketing didn't carry 8500 power supplies at all. Eventually I found AllMac.com, the online arm of We-Fix-Macs, near San Francisco. They didn't replacement power supplies either, but they said they'd fix mine for about $115. I considered sending them the entire Mac (which is what I'd recommend if you're not comfortable taking Macs apart), but I decided I could save some money if I shipped only the power supply. Although disassembling an 8500 is a pain, I figured out how to remove the power supply, packed it up, and mailed it off.
I reinstalled the power supply when it came back two weeks later (with some slightly stressful head scratching to get one last plastic part installed correctly) and brought the Mac back up without difficulty. The experience ended up a positive one, although We-Fix-Mac's customer service left a bit to be desired (they never told me what went wrong or what they repaired). If you find yourself needing repair on an older Mac (or particularly a Macintosh clone), We-Fix-Macs is worth a look.
Swapping Parts -- Around this same time, the internal hard disk on a Performa 6400 we use as a TidBITS database server also died. Geoff's backups are as retentive as mine, so the situation was annoying rather than disastrous (remember, it's not "if" a storage device will fail, it's "when"), and he used an external hard disk to bring the 6400 back on line. Since Geoff needed that external disk to burn CDs, using it for the database server was only a temporary solution, so I started thinking about the best way to repair the 6400 with a new disk. Replacing a hard disk was well within my skill set.
The dead Performa 6400 internal hard disk used an IDE-ATA mechanism, and IDE disks are a lot cheaper than SCSI disks. I could easily pick up a huge IDE disk for between $100 and $200. But the databases on that machine aren't large - perhaps 100 MB all told - so buying a large hard disk seemed like overkill. That was when the gears started to turn. If I swapped the 6400 for the 8500 mentioned previously (which had a working 1.2 GB internal hard disk), I could put a 60 GB IDE-ATA disk in the 6400 and use it both for our internal file server and to serve the 8 gigabytes of MP3s Tonya and I have converted from our CDs.
Although I saw no reason the Maxtor DiamondMax 60 GB hard disk I wanted shouldn't work, I was somewhat nervous about it, but a quick search in Google turned up a Maxtor FAQ page that allayed my fears. I also found Accelerate Your Mac's pages on IDE drives useful, especially the Drive Compatibility Database.
To buy the hard disk, I first went to PriceWatch to find vendors who seemed above-board and had low prices. I ended up ordering the hard disk from GoGoCity.com for about $230, and although they shipped fairly promptly, the disk was packed in bubble wrap and foam peanuts without a shred of documentation.
Luckily, when the time came to install the hard disk in the 6400, all went smoothly. No jumpers needed to be moved (if you put two IDE disks in a Mac that supports two, one must be the master and the other the slave, which requires a jumper change), and although we feared that a lengthy low-level format would be necessary, it wasn't, and initialization in Drive Setup took only seconds.
The moral of the story is that even if you're not all that technically savvy, you can perform a number of basic repairs yourself. The Internet is a huge help here: although searching can take some time, enthusiastic users have posted a vast amount of information about installing equipment. For instance, check out the 6400 Zone's Upgrade Experiences and Reader Reviews pages. Similar information is available for other Mac models - the hard part is finding it, since most of the search terms are generic words or numbers.
Help for Elusive Problems -- You may have the impression that I'm good with Macintosh hardware problems, but in fact, I merely know my limitations. If a repair involves plugging things together, I can probably handle it, but for more serious or unusual issues, I usually defer to my local Apple dealer, Westwind Computing. They've fixed a number of problems for me over the years, though my most telling story about the quality of Westwind's service involves a problem they fixed without repairing anything.
When I first got the Power Mac 8500, I noticed that occasionally I'd come down to work in the morning and find the machine frozen in the middle of a Retrospect backup. A while later, I was copying a large number of files over the network and saw it freeze in a suspiciously similar way. The freezes weren't common, and they almost always happened under high network load, so they didn't affect my daily work much. But they were annoying, and I get nervous when my desktop Mac doesn't back up.
I tried innumerable combinations of extensions, clean installations, different versions of the Mac OS (this took place over months), alternate cabling, different AAUI adapters, other SCSI device combinations, and even a PCI Ethernet card. Nothing helped, so finally I called Gordon at Westwind, who listened patiently to my tale of woe and then suggested that I swap the order of my RAM DIMMs. Flabbergasted at the suggestion (which has apparently been known to fix a variety of wacky problems even on current Macs), I nevertheless tried it. No change. When I called Gordon back, he immediately said we should swap out the motherboard, since the machine was still under warranty. With the replacement motherboard installed, the 8500 never exhibited those crashes again.
One aspect of good service involves listening carefully to the customer's problem. It's easy to assume, as a support person, that you know more than the customer, but little irritates people more than asking them to repeat troubleshooting steps they've already tried. In this case, Gordon knew that I was sufficiently competent to believe me if I said I'd tried something. I could have called Apple, but what do you think the likelihood would be of a tech support engineer believing me when I said that I'd isolated a sporadic crash under heavy network load to a defective motherboard? The combination of Westwind's service experience and ability to establish and rely on personal relationships is what made the difference for me.
The New Service World -- I've owned 15 Macs over the years, and during that time, I've used almost every repair option, including sending PowerBooks back to Apple directly for repair. For the most part, I've been happy with all the different approaches. Sometimes it's easier to do the work myself, sometimes sending a Mac to Apple or a place like We-Fix-Macs works well, and sometimes working with an Apple dealer is the better part of valor.
But that's changing now, and in ways that are almost guaranteed to confuse customers, since the details vary between Macintosh models. Things don't change much with the Power Mac G4 and the iMac, both of which Apple Authorized Service Providers can repair.
With the iBook and PowerBook G3, however, only Apple can repair your Mac - Apple dealers can no longer work on those machines. You can either send the Mac back to Apple directly or take your machine to a dealer, who will diagnose the problem and then send it in to Apple. Turnaround ranges from four to seven days, and the dealer can't get the parts from Apple to repair it any faster, even if the problem is obvious.
Worse, if a PowerBook G3 or iBook fails out of warranty, Apple now charges $359 (PowerBook) or $329 (iBook) for most repairs. If the repair was caused by an accident or abuse, there's tiered pricing depending on what failed. Those prices apply to dealers as well, and dealers can no longer buy individual parts from Apple for those machines. So, even if the trackpad button clicker breaks, you'll still have to pay the full repair amount. Suddenly AppleCare, which costs $349 for the PowerBook G3 and $249 for the iBook (from the Apple Store) looks more attractive, although alternatives to AppleCare may be even more so. See "Should You Get AppleCare" in TidBITS-478 and "Apple Revises AppleCare" in TidBITS-504.
However, with the new G4 Cube, if something goes wrong within warranty (or during any extended AppleCare warranty), you have only two options. You can send your Mac back to Apple for repair or Apple can send you the necessary part and you can install it yourself - dealers aren't supposed to send the G4 Cubes back to Apple and can't receive even the nominal reimbursement or assistance with boxes they get when returning PowerBooks and iBooks. Apple recently published PDF-based installation guides backed up by QuickTime movies for a number of common parts you might want to install into a G4 Cube or Power Mac G4 (Gigabit Ethernet). It's good to see Apple making it easier for technically savvy users to repair and upgrade their own Macs, but eliminating dealers entirely seems unnecessary.
Apple declined to comment on this change in service policy, either to shed any light on why Apple is cutting dealers out of the service loop or even to confirm the changes.
Service Pros & Cons -- I can see why Apple wants to bring more repair in-house. The effort and expense necessary to keep hundreds of Apple dealers stocked with parts and reimbursed for warranty service is undoubtedly immense. Plus, by bringing all repair work to a single location, Apple can more easily gather statistics on specific failures and figure out any commonalities in rare problems.
Apple dealers, particularly those who sell only Macs and have been awarded the Apple Specialist title, don't fare so well by the new policy. Service used to be a relatively high margin and important aspect of the business, and with Apple's new low prices, that was especially true. More concerning is the damage this can cause to dealers' relationships with their customers.
Assume you're a dealer who's just sold a bunch of G4 Cubes and PowerBook G3s to an architect's office. If something goes wrong with a Cube, the customer will want you to fix it. But you can't fix the machine on site, or even handle the repair process for the customer. You could encourage the customer to have Apple ship the parts to you for installation and testing, but that's confusing for the customer and you'll either have to charge more or eat the cost of that work, since Apple won't reimburse you. At least with an ailing PowerBook G3, you can handle the repair process, even if your only option is to send it back to Apple with four to seven day turnaround. It's easier to offer additional services in this case, such as making a backup for your customer or checking out the Mac when it comes back - I've heard stories of hard disks being swapped and Macs coming back with new problems. But you can't easily charge for any of these services, since the machines are still under warranty, so at best you end up acting as a technically savvy shipping department for little or no reimbursement from Apple. And particularly for the high quality Apple Specialists, that nominal reimbursement is significantly less than what they would have earned from Apple doing the repair in-house.
It all comes down to serving the customer, which Apple does by letting users ship broken Macs back to Apple for repair and by shipping parts to customers for installation. However, by creating a situation where the possibilities are different for different models, Apple causes confusion and irritation. It's easy to imagine an office with an iMac or two, some Power Mac G4s, a G4 Cube, and several PowerBooks; figuring out support options and requirements for the entire collection would be daunting, particularly given the long wait times common when calling Apple for support. Plus, refusing to let Apple Authorized Service Providers work on G4 Cubes (or even handle repairs for them) removes a repair option that could result in faster, better, cheaper, and more coherent repair work.
But it's worth following the toppling dominoes in this situation. Decent Apple dealers won't go out of business based on Apple's trend toward bringing all service in-house, but survival may require business model changes for many dealers, which may have unanticipated results. For instance, dealers may start to give significantly preferential service treatment to customers who purchase Macs through them (ensuring profits from a combined sales/service package), which sounds fine until you consider the possibility of someone who moves to a new city - or purchases Macs from a mail-order firm or the Apple Store - and can't get decent service from the local dealer. Apple's insistence on a high flat-rate fee for repairing PowerBooks and iBooks may result in service providers once again obtaining gray market parts so fixing that trackpad button clicker can cost $50 with labor, versus $359. In an effort to improve service quality, Apple had previously managed to eliminate the need for service providers to look to gray market parts by quickly and efficiently shipping Apple-authorized parts, even for older machines.
Obviously, there's no way to predict precisely what will happen, since every dealer will view the situation from a different perspective. But it's fair to say that by eliminating the option of dealer repair for the G4 Cube, PowerBook G3, and iBook, Apple simultaneously giveth and taketh away. Who will suffer the most from the loss of options: the dealers, the customers, or Apple?
Non-profit, non-commercial publications and Web sites may reprint or link to articles if full credit is given. Others please contact us. We do not guarantee accuracy of articles. Caveat lector. Publication, product, and company names may be registered trademarks of their companies. TidBITS ISSN 1090-7017.