Access America Online via the Internet? That's right, and read on for the details. Mark Anbinder reports on Apple's System Update 3.0, which includes a slew of fixes for System 7.1 (and later) users, Mr. Chan complains rightly about the way international customers are treated, and John Wolf provides some instructions for a rainy day of electronics work, assuming you want to use Apple's resolution switching software with a non-Apple multisync monitor.
This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
New QuickTake 100 cameras will include a QuickTake for Power Macintosh Install Disk beginning today, Apple says. You can tell the unit you're buying includes the new native PowerPC software if its item number is M1644LL/B rather than the original M1644LL/A. The box will also have an "Accelerated for Power Macintosh" sticker. If you already have a QuickTake and want the new software, stay tuned. [MHA]
AutoCAD for Macintosh doesn't work on the Power Mac series, so CAD users who want a little more speed may need to wait a while. AutoCAD uses the Mac's floating point unit (FPU), and since the 680x0 emulation on the Power Macs lacks one, the software can't run. Autodesk has not yet announced plans for a Power Mac compatible or native version.
Autodesk -- 800/964-6432 -- 415/332-2344 [MHA]
The Power Macintosh Upgrade Card can't be used in Macintosh IIvx, IIvi, and Performa 600 computers, contrary to an article in the June 1994 edition of Macworld magazine. Apple released this statement relating to their PowerPC-based accelerator card (designed for use in the PDS slot in several '040 Macs), noting that these models can be upgraded to a Power Macintosh 7100/66 or 7100/66AV model through a logic board upgrade. [MHA]
Chris Ferino <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
I've created and uploaded 50, 100, and 200 issue archives of the back issues of TidBITS for folks on America Online. If you do a QUICKFIND search on the keywords "TIDBITS ARCHIVE", you can download them as an easy way of filling out your collection [which you can search through with Easy View for tidbits that you can't remember -Adam].
by Mr. Chan <email@example.com>
Since Macintosh sales are increasing rapidly outside the U.S., and since over 50 percent of Apple's business comes from outside the U.S., isn't it time Macintosh companies thought of the people on the other side of the globe? It surprises me that more U.S.-based Macintosh companies don't take a few extra, easy steps to make themselves more accessible to international customers.
Phone Numbers -- It's strange to us (in the rest of the world where books and magazines from the U.S. are sold) to see U.S. companies advertising 800 toll-free numbers in bold. Don't they know that many, if not all, countries outside the North American continent cannot call these numbers? Even companies that do publish non-800 numbers can cause international readers some difficulty with those full page advertisements that always ask you to CALL FOR PRICES. Too often, the time zone difference requires truly interested international callers to wake up at 3 AM to make a call, an especially frustrating event when you are put on hold for ten minutes before someone talks to you. [Many international callers also may read and write English perfectly, but the combination of accents and a slight lag created by satellite links can make conversations difficult - that's been my experience the few times I've spoken with friends from other countries. -Adam]
Fax Numbers -- Many companies advertise their products and never include a fax number. Or, if they do bother to include a fax number, it's only an 800 number, which non-U.S. customers cannot use. A fax number is a minute detail, but it's extremely important to readers outside of the U.S, where easy access to the Internet, CompuServe, or America Online is not a given. Perhaps even more annoying are companies who publish a fax number and then switch their fax machines off at night.
Insert Cards -- Too many magazines arrive from the U.S. with insert cards that say "offer good for USA and Canada only." Why are these cards included in our copies? The cards add weight (the North American companies pay for postage - sometimes for three or four cards inside an issue) and international readers get frustrated. To win more customers, why don't companies make it "offer valid around the world" and have their international divisions follow up?
Solutions and Suggestions -- I think for the benefit for international readers, companies should come out with a special logo or claim such as "We do international business" on their ads, products, services, and so on. The logo could be prominently displayed, helping folks outside the U.S. quickly identify international-friendly companies. U.S. advertisers don't seem to realize that a copy of a magazine (such as Macworld or MacUser) may be read by say two or three persons in the U.S. but that same copy - should it arrive in the Far East, might be read by eight to ten persons. Computer magazines are typically sold at a high price outside the U.S., so an entire office is more likely to share one copy of the magazine. Similarly, if a company simply cannot do business outside of the U.S., they should say so clearly to avoid wasting everyone's time.
Finally companies should put Internet, AppleLink, America Online, or CompuServe addresses in their ads. Not everyone can access an online service, but providing an electronic address gives international customers one more possible channel for asking about and ordering products. Promise a 24-hour response for email and watch sales enquiries grow!
[We try to provide this sort of information at the end of our articles, specifically for our international readers, but it's not all that easy for us to find such contact information either, which accounts for some of the times that we only include an 800 number. Other times it's simply an oversight. I'd like to add a plea to Chan's - software companies should not only include complete contact information in their advertising, but also in their press releases and other official propaganda. To be honest, if I get a press release about an interesting product and all that's listed is a non-800 telephone number, I'm unlikely to check into it further. If there's an email address, the likelihood rises significantly. -Adam]
by John Wolf <firstname.lastname@example.org>
With the release of the Apple 20" Multiple Scan Monitor, Apple became the third (that I know of) company to offer monitor resolution switching on the fly. The other contenders, NEC with their DPI-On-The-Fly software and Radius with their Soft Precision Color software, offer similar features.
The new Apple Multiple Scan Software that accompanies the Apple 20" Multi-Scan allows you to switch between most of the Centris, Quadra, and Power Mac video resolutions. For example, the Quadra can switch between 640 x 480, 832 x 624, 1024 x 768, and 1152 x 870 resolutions without restarting the Mac or changing adapters. Along with resolution switching, a few long-awaited features have come to the Monitors control panel. With multiple monitors, you can now move the menu bar from monitor to monitor without restarting your Mac. Rearranging the positions of multiple monitors also takes effect immediately. These two features should work with any multi-monitor setup.
For this magic to take place on your Centris, Quadra, or Power Mac, you need an Apple 17" or 20" Multi-Scan monitor. Or do you?
I can't help but tinker when Apple releases anything new. The new 20" was no exception. After a few minutes with a multi-meter and a handful of parts, I found out that nothing more than a diode and a couple of DB-15 connectors allows any multi-scan monitor to perform the same feats of magic. Be aware that all previous Apple monitors were fixed resolution, and will NOT benefit from this hack, it ONLY works with multi-scan monitors (also referred to as multisync), such as the Sony 1730. So, if you are handy with a soldering iron and have $5 to cover the parts cost, you're good to go on the Magical Multiple Resolution Ride! (Please, no food or beverages.)
To begin, here is the list of parts:
1 DB-15 Male solder pot connector. (JDR Part# DB15P)
1 DB-15 Female solder pot connector. (JDR Part# DB15S)
2 DB-15 Hoods to cover your handiwork. (JDR Part# MPHOOD15)
1 1N914 or 1N4148 diode (RS Part# 276-1122, JDR Part# 1N4148)
Apple Multiple Scan Software installer disk. (You get to find this one)
Wire, solder, and 30 minutes. (That's tinkerer time, it never counts)
The adapter can be wired up with the D connectors back to back with only a half inch of solid wire between connectors, no hoods, with electrical tape wrapped around the exposed wires for insulation. Or you can do as I have done, and make the adapter a short pigtail with 4-6" of stranded wire between connectors. The pigtail looks neater, and avoids stress on your Mac's video connector from a chain of adapters poking straight back. Feel free to substitute crimp style D connectors if you have tools to assemble them.
If your multi-scan monitor has a VGA style connector (3 rows of 5 pins), see the second wiring diagram and part substitution. Or if you prefer, you can plug your existing Mac-to-VGA adapter into the back of this adapter.
Wire the adapter thusly: (NC = No Connection)
DB-15 Male DB-15 Female ---------- ------------ 2------ Red Video ------2 1------ Red Ground ------1 5----- Green Video -----5 6----- Green Ground -----6 9------ Blue Video ------9 13----- Blue Ground -----13 3---- Composite Sync ----3 12-------- V Sync --------12 |---11--- C,V Sync Ground ---11 | 15-------- H Sync --------15 | 14---- H Sync Ground ----14 | 8------------------------8 |----4 NC--4 7--|<--| NC--7 10------| NC--10
In the above diagram, pin 4 on the male side is shorted to pin 11 (ground). Pins 7 and 10 can be configured in two ways: If your monitor only supports resolutions up to 1024 x 768 at 75 Hz (such as the Sony 1304, 1430, 1604, or 1730), install the diode with the striped end soldered to pin 10 and the other end to pin 7. If your monitor supports all resolutions up to 1152 x 870 at 75 Hz (such as the non-Trinitron Supermatch 17), install the diode with the striped end to pin 7 and the other end to pin 10. This is critical, as it prevents a user from selecting a resolution that the monitor cannot display. If you are unsure, go with the 1024 x 768 diode installation.
Notice that pins 4, 7, and 10 are not passed through to anything on the female side. These are the ID pins that tell the computer what monitor is connected. If they were passed through this adapter, it is possible the cable or monitor attached to the female side may short additional ID pins to ground, defeating the monitor ID we have set.
If you are familiar with twisted pair wiring, you might use it for the Red, Blue, and Green signal/ground pairs to help eliminate possible interference. If you're really RFI crazy, 75 ohm mini-coax would be primo. You may also wish to solder a wire from shell to shell for improved grounding.
With the hoods on and a final test with your meter, attach the male end to the back of your Mac, attach your multi-scan monitor to the female end and power up. Without the Apple Multiple Scan Software installed, the Mac should see the monitor as a 640 x 480 display. After installing the software, open the Monitors control panel and click on the Options button. You should be able to select between resolutions. As soon as the Options dialog closes, your monitor should blink out and come back at the selected resolution. If for some reason your monitor can't display the selected resolution, restart your computer with your original cables and adapters. It will revert to a fixed frequency setting.
If you want to make a VGA-style adapter, here is the pinout. Substitute a HD-15 Female for the DB-15 Female; also you will need a DB-9 hood to cover the smaller HD-15 connector.
Wire the VGA adapter thusly: (NC = No Connection)
DB-15 Male HD-15 Female ---------- ------------ 2------ Red Video ------1 1------ Red Ground ------6 5----- Green Video -----2 6----- Green Ground -----7 9------ Blue Video ------3 13----- Blue Ground -----8 12-------- V Sync --------14 |---11 | 15-------- H Sync --------13 | 14----- Sync Ground -----10 | 3-- NC NC --4 | 8-- NC NC --5 |----4 NC --9 7--|<--| NC --11 10------| NC --12
Good luck, and happy syncing!
by Mark H. Anbinder, News Editor <email@example.com>
Director of Technical Services, Baka Industries Inc.
Apple recently released System Update 3.0, a collection of bug fixes, system software enhancements, and updated utilities, for all Macintosh computers using System 7.1 or later. The package supersedes System Update 2.0.1, Hardware System Updates 2.0 and 1.0, several intermediate bug-fix releases, and recent software updates, and the Installer will remove any superfluous updates during installation.
System Update 3.0 is available as a pair of high density (1.4 MB) diskettes, or a single 800K diskette. The single 800K disk contains all that Mac Plus, SE, or II users will need. The second disk of the 1.4 MB set contains new system enablers, so will only be needed for Macs that require enablers. (Any Macintosh that requires System 7.1 also requires an enabler. These include all desktop and portable Macs and Workgroup Server models introduced since August of 1992.)
System Update 3.0 is designed "to increase overall system performance and reliability on most Macintosh models." Among the improvements are better handling of application launches over a network, prevention of file or media corruption when working with a file on a remote volume if a connection is lost, and better reliability when saving files remotely to a server using pre-7.0 system software and pre-3.0 AppleShare server software.
There are hardware-specific fixes as well. For example, the update eliminates a problem that prevented a Mac Plus from using system software newer than 7.1, and prevents a PowerBook from trying to spin up its hard drive when the system needs to warn the user that only ten seconds of battery power remain. An AV-specific fix to the Resource Manager appears to fix the problems with disk accesses previously fixed by the various AV speedup extensions such as sAVe the Disk.
System Update 3.0 updates the standard file package (which provides the file saving and opening user interface, among other things) to include many fixes and enhancements. Most significantly, a problem has been eliminated that could cause a crash when more than twenty volumes were mounted; and most noticeably, color icons and application-specific icons are now used in the standard file dialog boxes.
Among the discrete pieces of system software replaced by the update are the Easy Access, Memory, PowerBook, PowerBook Setup, PowerBook Display, TV Setup, Screen, and PC Setup control panels; the Battery desk accessory; and most of the System Enablers, including the PowerBook Duo Enabler, PowerPC Enabler, and PowerPC Upgrade Card Enabler.
Apple also provides Apple HD SC Setup 7.3.1 with the update; the new version fixes a crash problem version 7.3 has when run on Macintosh models that don't support virtual memory. SimpleText, the TeachText replacement that supports multiple simultaneous files, styled text, and QuickTime documents, is included as well. (SimpleText has shipped with the Power Macintoshes for about two months.)
Details on changes to each piece are laid out in the Read Me file accompanying the System Update, although some of the descriptions of fixes to dire problems leave one wondering how common the problem really was. The Read Me file has been posted to comp.sys.mac.announce, and should be available separately from the same electronic sources as the update itself, should you wish to look over the list of changes before you go to the trouble or expense of downloading the software. The Read Me file also describes fixes and other changes that were implemented in the previous updates that System Update 3.0 replaces.
You need download and install this update only if your Macintosh is running System 7.1, System 7.1.1 (System 7 Pro), or System 7.1.2 (on Power Macs). If your Mac has System 7.0.1 or earlier system software, you should not install this update without first upgrading to System 7.1. Apple highly recommends the update for all affected Macintosh users, and while I think the new icon handling in the standard file dialogs looks silly, I agree that there are sufficient improvements to warrant the update.
The update is available via anonymous FTP on the Internet from <ftp.apple.com> and <ftp.austin.apple.com>, via gopher from <info.hed.apple.com>, on AppleLink and the usual commercial online services, and from dealers. We found it most easily at (note that this is a single URL - it was way too long to fit on a single line):
-- Information from:
Tim Swihart and Mark B. Johnson, Apple Computer Inc.
by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
That's an accurate, though misleading title. Wired Magazine has indeed opened a section on America Online, but more what I wanted to note was America Online's increased Internet access (keyword = internet). I wrote about their Usenet access in TidBITS #216, and since then America Online has added Gopher and WAIS access, although it's still not ideal or anywhere as good as TurboGopher or MacWAIS.
Gopher and WAIS Interfaces -- America Online presents Gopher menus in much the same way TurboGopher does, with new windows for each new area that you enter. Unfortunately, America Online doesn't have TurboGopher's clever multitasking capabilities, so when a window fills, you have to sit and watch it - there's nothing you can do until it finishes. Searching a WAIS source works much as it does in TurboGopher as well, so that you simply click on a search item in a list and enter a search term; no provisions are made for ranking details or use of relevance feedback.
America Online's implementation of the Gopher and WAIS interfaces leaves much to be desired. They kindly selected and organized various Gopher servers and WAIS sources into categories, but there are so few entries in each category that you wonder what they were thinking. Perhaps the reason behind the lists is that America Online won't show all the entries in a list - after 20 or so you get a More button that reveals more entries - this sometimes even appears when reading in a text window and in either place is irritating. Even finding the Home Gopher Server at the University of Minnesota took me some time, since I had to find a Gopher server that had a link to Other Gopher and Information Servers - there's no way of going directly to a specific Gopher server. Bookmarks aren't implemented, which isn't surprising since America Online could desperately use those elsewhere, but still doesn't have them. Veronica searching is simple only; every time I tried to add the "-t7" switch to a Veronica search (that switch finds only searchable items), the search failed. Error messages are useless; whereas TurboGopher and other Gopher clients tell you that the Veronica server is too busy or that you didn't connect to it, America Online just reports that an Internet error occurred (which is merely passing the buck - an error occurred, but it might have just been a bad search term or an overloaded Veronica server). You can't select which Veronica server to search, which could be a major problem in certain cases, since often only one will be available. To be charitable, it's possible that America Online somehow tries more than one Veronica server, but I doubt it.
Most seriously, you're limited to retrieving textual data from Gopher servers. Images (and other data types, I suspect) simply aren't displayed in the lists, and if you attempt to enter a folder containing only images, America Online says it can't do that. This is a serious limitation since Gopher servers are a popular way of making images available on the Internet, and with other Macintosh Gopher clients it's not a problem to retrieve them and have them automatically opened with something like the excellent JPEGView. Overall, I'm simply not impressed with America Online's efforts in this area - the access is there, but anyone who plans on making serious use of it should consider getting a real Internet account instead.
AOL Internet Connection -- Even more interesting than America Online's increased Internet services is the fact that you can now connect to America Online over the Internet if you have MacTCP-based Internet access, either through a network or SLIP or PPP. Of course, none of this does you any good if you don't have an America Online account already.
Needless to say, you can't just telnet into America Online using NCSA Telnet (I couldn't even easily figure out what the hostname on the Internet is). You need special software, and that software is available at:
You can also get version 2.1 of the full America Online application there, which you need to use the Internet connection files, I suspect.
Once you download and expand the self-extracting archive, you are left with three main files, a Telnet tool called TCPack (version 2.2.5b0), a file called TCP Connection, and another called TCPack. Drag the Telnet tool onto your System Folder so it can land in your Extensions folder and put the other two files in your Online Files folder inside the America Online folder. The instructions then recommend setting the preferred memory requirements for America Online's application up to 1,024K, after which you can launch America Online and from the Locality pop-up menu, choose TCP Connection.
The README file from <ftp.aol.com> stops there, but ever the curious one, I clicked on the Setup button. TCPack, a new item in the Connection File pop-up menu is selected, and clicking on the Configure button brings up the standard Communications Toolbox dialog that enables you to select from a pop-up menu of appropriate connection tools. I have both the MP Telnet tool that comes with MicroPhone Pro and the VersaTerm Telnet tool, so I never even bothered to try the TCPack 2.2.5b0 tool that comes with the package - I assume it works fine, but the README claims that it expires on 30-Jun-94, and I always seem to be bitten when beta programs expire on me. When configuring both tools (they both worked fine), it didn't seem to make any difference what host you selected - the America Online application apparently has that hard-coded somewhere.
Once you have everything configured correctly, just make sure you're properly connected to the Internet if you use SLIP or PPP, and then click on America Online's Sign On button. The login process proceeds normally, but since you've already made the connection to the Internet, it's quite a bit faster. After you're on, everything works pretty much as normal. I connect over a 14,400 bps SLIP connection, so the speed was not significantly different from the normal 9,600 bps modem connection I normally used with America Online. Windows seemed to open a little faster, but uploads took a bit longer. Overall, I found the reliability better with the Internet connection, but I've been having major trouble with America Online for the last few months.
I see several advantages to using the Internet access method over the normal modem connection. Many people may only have Internet access at work, so connecting from there is possible over the Internet but not over modem. In other cases, Internet access may be free or cheap, whereas the modem call could be expensive and error-prone. Also, because of the standard way Macintosh Internet programs work, you can use any number of them simultaneously, which simply isn't possible if one application hogs the modem, as is normal with America Online. Finally, I suppose this makes it easier for non-U.S. users to connect, although I don't know what America Online's feeling about that might be.
Disadvantages? There are a lot of access numbers for America Online around the U.S., certainly more than Internet access numbers, and if that's true in your area, there may be no reason to bother with the Internet access. I can't tell, but I haven't heard anything indicating that the Internet access will be cheaper than the normal modem access, which would be a shame, since America Online wouldn't have to pay SprintNet for providing the network. In fact, it makes sense for America Online to devote more resources to making the Internet access as good as possible, since it's probably cheaper for them to provide.
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