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Performa Systems

It seems that the Performas, although they run a slightly modified version of System 7.0.1, will not ship with a full set of system disks. This is a problem for a third-party tech support person when she wants the user to test a problem by booting from a floppy disk or to correct a problem by re-installing the system. Obviously, some companies like Shiva and Wolfram Research won't worry about this since Performa users won't use routers or Mathematica, but lots of companies will have problems with this, not the least of them Symantec, Claris, and Intuit.

I checked this with John Cook, Apple's consumer product manager, who luckily answered his email while in Germany helping with the roll-out of the Performa line. John confirmed that Apple will not ship system disks in the box with the Performa, but Apple Backup, a simple backup utility does come pre-installed on the hard disk and in the Launcher. Let's hope that users read the manual first, because it immediately instructs users to backup of their hard disks with the Apple Backup utility (if you advise anyone about buying a Performa, make sure they buy a box of blank disks at the same time!). Apple Backup provides two choices, according to John, just the operating system (I presume he means the System Folder) or everything on the disk.

So that's where the user will get his set of system disks to use when a tech support person wants him to re-install the system. If the user overlooks making a backup, he can call Apple's toll-free customer assistance center for answers about the operating system and if necessary Apple will send a set of system software disks.

This will no doubt slow down technical support for Performa users of third-party applications, but at least the user will eventually get full support.

John said, "We've learned a lot from our consumer pilot and from our PowerBook support programs and feel this system works. Our data tells us that many users, especially first time buyers, don't understand install routines for the Mac OS or know what to do with the disks."

John is right about users not knowing what to do with the installer, but I'd like to see Apple go even further yet. Consider this. If master disks had a few special non-printing characters at the start of the disk name, a simple extension could offer the choice of treating the disk as a normal one or running an install script (one allowing the user to place files wherever she wants rather than on the boot volume). Power users wanting to avoid the automatic installer could simply remove the initial special characters, and novice users would find it much less daunting. The installer extension could even automatically add items to the Launcher on the Performas. A clever person might be able to duplicate this functionality with Frontier Runtime and a sophisticated script.

Information from:
John Cook, Apple Consumer Product Manager