This week's issue brings information about two important hardware issues: disks that lose their data while you repair them and third-party printers that won't print from PCI Macs. In addition, we explain how to better handle sending attachments and large files to and from AOL, and we take a look at Apple's newly released QuickTime 2.1.
This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
CodeWarrior 7 Set To Ship -- Eric Gundrum <email@example.com> writes:
Sources close to Metrowerks report that the CodeWarrior 7 CD has just gone into production and is expected to begin shipping to registered users 18-Sep-95. CodeWarrior 7 includes the final release version of CodeWarrior 1.3, which no longer uses different applications for building Power Mac and 68K Mac applications. App-building functionality is integrated into one IDE (Integrated Development Environment) application, and debugging tools have been similarly integrated. Other features include new PPC 603 and 604 code optimizers and plug-in compiler technology. Plug-ins enable Metrowerks to ship updates to individual compilers without forcing users to download the full application. The two-CD set has been completely reorganized, with all the reference material on one CD in Acrobat and QuickView formats, with the development tools assembled on the second CD.
Asleep at the Wheel -- A number of folks commented last week that you can approximate some of the sleep features in the new PCI Power Macs with Sleeper, a $20 shareware control panel from St. Clair Software. Sleeper blanks your monitors and spins down your hard disks, but it does not power down Energy Star monitors. I'm pleased that Apple has done what they have with the new Power Macs, but even still, to me, a sleep mode should work like the one in the PowerBooks does. I want the entire machine down and silent - no moving parts at all - but the Mac should be able to wake up exactly where it left off. I realize that may not be technically possible with the existing chips and system design, but if PowerBooks can do it... [ACE]
More Update Madness -- Several readers commented on Wagner Truppel's article in TidBITS-293 regarding updating your computer to System 7.5.1. Some mentioned that peculiar problems can result from not updating the drivers for hard disks and removable media (especially SyQuest cartridges) to drivers known to be compatible with the new system version. Also, many readers noted that pressing Command-Shift-K when using the System 7.5 installer activates a hidden feature that creates a "clean" System Folder and renames the old System Folder. Though the Command-Shift-K trick is useful, Apple could make such functionality more accessible. This is not Windows; cryptic keystrokes aren't helpful. [GD]
by Geoff Duncan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Last week, problem reports began circulating about troubles with Norton Disk Doctor (NDD) and newer Macintosh models, particularly new Power Macs. Symptoms include NDD reporting errors with disk directory information and allocation block sizes. If a user tells NDD to fix these problems, the program may crash toward the end of the repair, rendering the disk unable to boot and apparently losing all data.
The problem, although potentially serious, is easy to detect and, if you've already been hit, you may be able to recover your data.
Defining the Problem -- There are actually two problems: the first resides on the hard disks themselves, and the second lies with the way NDD reacts to those hard disks.
The root cause is extraneous "ghost" directory information on some hard disks that Apple has been shipping in newer Macintosh models. The precise origin of the spurious data is unclear, and "informed" sources have pointed to a number of possible causes. Some claim the disks were delivered to Apple with this problem; others indicate there may have been a subtle error with Apple's preparation of these drives in manufacturing; still other sources point to a combination of these factors. The problem only appears on internal hard disks, and does not appear on or spread to additional storage devices connected to these machines.
NDD is correct in identifying a problem. However, NDD's attempts to fix the problem often result in the disk being unusable and (apparently) wiped of its data. In reality, the data on the drive is intact and untouched; however, the directory information that enables the Macintosh to locate and retrieve that data is damaged.
Who's Affected -- The bottom line: people who have purchased any Power Macintosh computer since 01-Jul-95 should be concerned.
So far as I can determine, a description of the problem first appeared in E-News, a newsletter from Apples B.C. Computer Society, a long-standing Apple user group in British Columbia.
This article gave a range of machines and serial numbers impacted. So far as I can determine, the article is at best only partly accurate. As of this writing, sources inside Symantec and Apple have reliably confirmed that the problem has been detected in the Power Macintosh 5200-series, 6100s, 6200s, 7100s, 7200s, and 7500s, all purchased since 01-Jul-95. Additionally, the problem has been reported in 6100-series Performas, Power Mac 8500s, and even a Quadra 630 (although I find this last hard to believe due to the drastic differences in the drive architecture of the machines).
What to Do -- First, don't panic. If you have a machine with this problem, it's unlikely to rise up and bite you in the next ten minutes.
Symantec has just released a free utility called Disk Spot Check that can both detect the problem and eliminate the residual "ghost" data if the user so chooses. It should be available via Symantec's FTP site but that site has been having intermittent problems. In the meantime, Ric Ford has kindly reposted Symantec's utility and information on the problem at his MacInTouch Web site (thanks, Ric!), and the program is also available in Symantec's AOL and CompuServe forums. It will be available on the Info-Mac Archives soon. The Disk Spot Check utility only needs to be run once; from that point onward, it's safe to use Norton Disk Doctor on the disk to attempt to repair any existing or future problems.
The second, more thorough option is to back up all your data, then perform a low-level format of your disk. Booting from another disk and choosing Erase Disk from the Special menu or deleting all the files is not sufficient. Similarly, merely updating the driver on the disk will not correct the problem. The disk must be reformatted using the disk formatting software Apple supplies with the machine (Apple Drive Setup or Apple HD SC Setup), or a third-party utility such as Drive7, Silverlining, or Hard Disk Toolkit.
If you've already run NDD, experienced this problem, and want your data back, don't add files or try to correct the problem; instead, call Symantec technical support at 503/465-8440. They can talk you through a series of steps that should result in your recovering your data if you haven't added files or written data to the disk since the problem hit you.
Other Utility Software -- This problem seems to bite NDD harder than other disk recovery software. However, I've seen reports that Symantec's MacTools and even Apple's Disk First Aid have identified "uncorrectable" directory damage on disks with this problem. I have seen no confirmed reports of other utility programs causing damage or data loss on machines due to this problem; however, I also haven't seen confirmed reports of other utility programs fixing the problem or consistently identifying it. Even if you use a disk recovery program other than NDD, it might not hurt to use Disk Spot Check to determine if the problem might be present on your machine. If it is, I recommend either backing up and reformatting your drive or contacting your vendor's technical support to ask them what the recommended course of action might be. If you don't own a disk recovery tool and find the problem on your Mac, I'd recommend either backing up then reformatting your disk, or calling Apple at 800/SOS-APPL for information. In either case, you can also choose to let Disk Spot Check correct the problem.
by Les Jones <email@example.com>
America Online overhauled their email system a few weeks ago to better handle long messages, and to allow AOL users to send and receive files through Internet email (see TidBITS-292). The new system delivers some long-awaited features but also has a few snags.
Long Messages -- By now TidBITS readers on AOL have noticed a change in the way TidBITS arrives. Previously, email messages longer than about 25K were split into multiple messages as they passed through AOL's Internet mail gateway. TidBITS issues are about 30K, so AOL users used to receive TidBITS in two parts.
In the new system, messages larger than 25K appear as downloadable file attachments. AOL displays the first 2K of the message in the message body as a preview of the file contents. The message header makes note of this:
X-Note: Only the first 2K of this message is displayed. You can
retrieve the entire text by selecting "Download."
At first, AOL included the first 25K as a preview. That led to howls of protest from many who disliked the extra download time. AOL took note, and reduced the preview to 2K.
Unfortunately for Mac users, AOL's attached text files are formatted as DOS text files, so they contain linefeed characters that usually appear as small boxes at the beginning of each line. You can strip out the linefeed characters using a number of utilities, such as Add/Strip or Dos2Mac. You can also read the files in a text editor like BBEdit Lite that transparently handles linefeed characters.
According to America Online representative Meriam Grossman, AOL will eventually allow users to choose how they receive long email messages: split, or as file attachments with a 25K preview. Meriam commented that AOL is working on the linefeed problem. Version 3.0 of the AOL software for Macintosh will revise the entire email interfac, include an integrated Web browser, and might be finished by the end of 1995.
Internet File Attachments -- America Online has always made it easy to send files from one AOL member to another. AOL now offers support for file attachments to and from the Internet. Superficially, Internet mail file attachments work just like AOL file attachments. Beneath the surface, however, there are important issues that determine whether the file will still be useful once it has passed through AOL's email gateway.
To perform binary-to-text conversions, AOL uses MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions), sometimes known as Base64. Mac users are probably more familiar with BinHex than MIME. Like MIME, BinHex transforms a binary file into a text file that can safely pass through 7-bit email systems. BinHex also understands the Mac's two-part file format (data and resource forks), and preserves a Mac file's name, along with its type and creator codes.
MIME can be extended to handle BinHex, but AOL has not yet implemented BinHex in their email gateway. That means trouble for Mac users until AOL fixes their system. Will Mayall, a programmer for Claris Emailer, was mystified over the omission of BinHex. "The one thing I can't figure out is [why AOL didn't do] Binhex. It's not hard coding, and it's the standard way people send Macintosh files over the Internet."
Testing the System -- I mailed files back and forth between AOL and my Internet account, using both Eudora and Claris Emailer. All attachments sent from Eudora were MIME-encoded and used the BinHex format rather than AppleSingle, AppleDouble, or UUEncode. For the experiments, I used four document types: an unaltered application, a StuffIt-compressed application, a binhexed application, and an unaltered GIF.
AOL's email gateway wrecked the unaltered application going from AOL to the Internet. Without using BinHex, the application's resource fork was lost, rendering the file unusable. So, sending unaltered Mac programs and Mac files with resource forks (such as some HyperCard stacks and documents) out through AOL's Internet mail gateway is suicide.
Next, I tried a StuffIt-compressed version of the application. Compressing the file produces a new file with only a data fork, and the resource fork is restored when the file is decompressed. This worked, but my test file's type and creator codes were lost when it arrived at my Internet account, so double-clicking the file didn't work to expand the file. Dragging and dropping the file onto StuffIt Expander's icon also failed. I had to use File Buddy or ResEdit to add the StuffIt type and creator codes (SITD/SIT!) before StuffIt Expander recognized and successfully decompressed the file.
Binhexed files work well in either direction. StuffIt Expander doesn't insist on type and creator codes for binhexed files because the type and creator codes are almost always lost anyway. After downloading the binhexed file, I could drag and drop it onto StuffIt Expander and achieve success every time. Aladdin's DropStuff utility can compress and binhex files in one easy step.
Finally, I tried sending GIFs back and forth between AOL and my Internet account. This worked surprisingly well. Eudora correctly typed the file for me, so I could double-click it to open it. AOL recognized the file was a GIF, and even displayed it during the download. I have high hopes that all Internet mail attachments will work this smoothly once the bugs are worked out. To be fair, GIFs are a ringer. AOL's gateway automatically recognizes GIFs, JPEGs, and MPEGs.
Other Notes -- Text of binhexed files less than 25K in size arrived in my AOL email within the body of the message I attached them to. When binhexed files arrived in the message body, I saved the email as text and ran it through StuffIt Expander without a hitch.
AOL's email system allows only one attached file per message. If an incoming email has multiple file attachments, AOL stores the files in a single attached MIME file that can be converted with a utility such as uucd (Adam and I both had troubles with MPack). Once again, AOL makes note of this in the message header:
X-Note: This message has multiple attachments, stored in a
single MIME document. Select "Download" to get the MIME
document, then use a MIME decoder (available at keyword
FILE SEARCH) to retrieve the attachments.
Conclusions -- AOL's Internet file attachment is sure to make life easier for AOL members and their friends, but the new system needs to be updated for proper BinHex compatibility. Until AOL updates their system, convert files to BinHex format before mailing them through AOL's Internet mail gateway.
by Neil deMause <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I've always loved my little LC II and GCC printer, but for a free-lance graphic designer, they never had enough power, even when they were new. So, when I came upon a sudden windfall of cash, I paid off my credit card and ran out to make two purchases: an HP 5MP laser printer, and a brand-new Power Mac 7200.
The printer arrived first, and I happily hooked it up to my old Mac, all the while thinking, "Just wait 'til I can team this baby up with a 7200!"
And my first 24 hours with the 7200 were wonderful: it ran fast as the breeze, and with few major software conflicts. I even printed a 120-page QuarkXPress document (all text), without any glitches. I had to deliver printouts of another QuarkXPress file the next morning, but I thought I had no problem as I hit Print...
...and watched as my screen froze.
I tried again. Same thing. I tried printing different pages. It froze again. I tried turning off background printing, changing drivers, starting with extensions off, and reinstalling the system software. Nothing had any effect, except for printing without placed graphics included - I soon discovered that nothing with graphic images (even a PICT screenshot or a Netscape page with GIFs) would print on my 5MP.
Calls to 800/SOS-APPL resulted in a frenzy of buck-passing to HP. HP Tech Support was friendly, but clueless - they speculated that some architecture change in the PCI Power Macs was messing with communication to their printer, but they didn't know what it was.
In desperation, I logged onto eWorld in search of help - only to run into a bevy of other frustrated new Power Mac users, all complaining of printing freezes when printing to their non-Apple printers. Users with printers from GCC, Tektronix, and NewGen all said nothing had helped them, and reacted with outrage to Apple's unhelpful responses. (One especially funny suggestion was to unhook the printer if it wasn't working.) I half-expected to see a SimCity-style mob picketing outside eWorld's computer center.
The details of the problems are still coming in, but it seems that something major may be afoot here, either with the printers or with the new machines, perhaps both. HP has apparently identified an incompatibility between its DeskWriter drivers and the new Power Macs due to changes in the serial ports. One suggested workaround is to print via AppleTalk rather than with a serial driver, which suggests that other third-party printers using serial drivers may have similar problems. HP will reportedly post a fix on their Web site when it's available.
Problems with third-party printers may not be consistent - I have printed successfully to my GCC BLP Elite, while a woman on eWorld with an identical printer reported recurring freezes. No one has yet found a comprehensive solution; zapping the PRAM and using the LaserWriter 8.3 driver with background printing off have provided temporary relief for some, but the problem invariably returns. Some users have reported success with the 5MP using a new PPD from HP in conjunction with the LaserWriter 8 driver.
After initially refusing to admit the problem, there are signs that Apple is examining the situation. One user in the United Kingdom reported receiving voicemail from Apple UK, saying they were working with Apple USA on a solution. Until then, Mac users with non-Apple printers might want to check with their printer's manufacturer before buying that new PCI Power Mac they're dreaming about.
by Charles Wiltgen <email@example.com>
Most Mac users have probably heard of QuickTime. It has shipped with many applications and most Mac multimedia titles for the past few years. QuickTime 2.0 is currently included with System 7.5, and as of today, version 2.1 is available online for free (also make sure to get MoviePlayer 2.1, a QT2.1-savvy version of MoviePlayer).
[If you have trouble getting through, try the same path at the short URL below. -Geoff]
QuickTime 2.1 squashes a few bugs, incorporates several new features, and fleshes out some existing capabilities. Why should you care about QuickTime 2.1? Because it may let multimedia on the Macintosh go where no media has gone before.
QuickTime Bug Fixes -- With QuickTime 2.1, Apple has rolled the fixes provided by the Apple Multimedia Tuner 2.0.1 into QuickTime itself (so if you have Multimedia Tuner installed, remove it when you install QuickTime 2.1). Those fixes include a workaround for applications which didn't properly prepare movies for playback, better behavior in low-memory situations, better protection against video and sound hiccups, DSP Manager fixes for the 840AV and 660AV, plus other fixes that improve QuickTime's general performance and reliability.
Additionally, QuickTime 2.0's problems with bleed-through during capture and preview of video have been fixed, as have problems associated with flattening and playing back movies with IMA-compressed audio tracks. (IMA 4:1 audio compression enables developers to maintain good sound fidelity without surpassing the data rate limits imposed by CD-ROM drives.)
Sprites, Improved Text Handling, and More -- QuickTime 2.1's least obvious but most drastic enhancement is its new sprite animation capabilities, manifested in the Sprite Toolbox and the new Sprite Track (which lets you play "sprite movies"). QuickTime's new sprite features provide powerful animation and compositing capabilities.
In animation terms, a "sprite" is not a small, winged pixie; rather, it's simply an image that is almost invariably moving and animated. Sprites show up frequently in multimedia authoring programs like Macromedia Director and in games (think Maelstrom!), and you can think of them as independent, animated graphic entities within a larger graphical display (or actors on a stage). Sprites have properties that dictate where they are, what they look like, and if they're visible. QuickTime's 2.1's Sprite Toolbox simplifies the process of creating animation. If it's fast enough, you can expect to see QuickTime's Sprite Toolbox used in games and multimedia applications.
One of the most significant enhancements to QuickTime 2.1 is its improved handling of Text tracks within QuickTime movies. Not only does MoviePlayer 2.1 allow more control when creating Text tracks, but the enhanced text import/export components in QuickTime 2.1 make it easier to work with and edit Text tracks. QuickTime 2.1 can import and export embedded commands that describe timing, spatial, color and style information for the text track as well as the text itself. This makes editing a text track as simple as exporting it, modifying it with any text editor, then re-importing it.
As an example, this command sequence
will place a one-second, 14 point, Garamond Italic rendition of "Hello World!" exactly 5 seconds and 28 ticks into my movie.
QuickTime 2.1 takes advantage of the hardware cursor support in the Power Mac 9500/8500/7500 to minimize CPU time during capture and playback. QuickTime and its codecs have been optimized for the PowerPC 604 and new AV hardware in those systems. New hooks in QuickTime's API allow vendors to improve QuickTime's performance through hardware assistance of many QuickTime functions. For example, developers can shove data between their video hardware and a hard drive without intervention from the CPU - this translates into better performance for hardware-assisted video.
QuickTime 2.1 adds generalizations to QuickTime's media capture architecture in order to support the audio standards of the video conferencing marketplace. Apple's QuickTime Conferencing application (introduced at Macworld Boston) and other applications can take advantage of this to interoperate with other video conferencing implementations on other computers.
Enhanced Sound Support -- Internet surfers will be happy to know the combination of QuickTime 2.1 and Sound Manager 3.1 enables opening and playback of WAV and .au (uLaw) files. [Try using MoviePlayer 2.1 to test this new capability. -Geoff] Also, since the new Sound Manager is native, Power Mac users will see reported performance increases of up to 500 percent, enabling higher video frame rates and smoother playback.
CD-ROM AutoStart -- As a multimedia developer, I've been envious of only one Windows 95 feature - CD-ROMs that play automatically. If done properly, CD-ROM AutoStart can reduce the complexity of installing and running a CD-ROM title for less-experienced users.
Although this unpublicized feature was available in QuickTime 2.0, Apple officially supports it in QuickTime 2.1. Mac multimedia titles that take advantage of this feature run automatically when you pop 'em in the drive - great for educational and entertainment CD-ROMs, and enhanced CDs (CDs used in either a computer or an audio CD player).
Enhanced MPEG Support -- Support for MPEG is greatly improved in QuickTime 2.1. Although QuickTime 2.0 introduced basic support for MPEG streams, few vendors have introduced MPEG cards due (in part) to weaknesses in the original implementation. The enhancements and bug fixes present in the new MPEG media components may help remedy that.
Improved MPEG support is significant since MPEG is on its way to becoming a prevalent standard for the delivery of digital video. To view MPEG movies on the Mac, you either need an MPEG card or a software MPEG decompressor. (Until one is built into QuickTime, try Sparkle for playing back and converting MPEG video.)
One advantage for QuickTime MPEG movies (an MPEG movie with a QuickTime "wrapper") is that they can include additional QuickTime tracks such as text annotations (closed captioning), a second audio program, or supplementary commentary tracks.
New and Improved -- In some ways, QuickTime 2.1 merely fulfills the promise of QuickTime 2.0's features. However, exciting new features like the Sprite Toolbox, the hardware acceleration API, and the CD-ROM AutoStart capabilities show that Apple isn't resting on its laurels.
QuickTime 2.1 requires a color-capable Macintosh with a 68020 processor or better, along with System 6.0.7 or higher. As available on Apple's FTP sites, QuickTime 2.1 includes the QuickTime PowerPlug for Power Macs, and QuickTime Musical Instruments to enhance MIDI capabilities available through QuickTime.
[For more information, check out Charles's QuickTime FAQ, or Apple's increasingly hyper QuickTime Web site. -Geoff]
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.