close this bookTidBITS#33   19901203
View the documentTidBITS Survey (2nd chance)
View the documentWhen I'm 68040...
View the documentDisinfectant 2.4
View the documentAfternoon, The Novel
View the documentAT&T&NCR
View the documentNot Exactly a Prodigy
View the documentReviews/03-Dec-90
View the documentFoot Notes

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Copyright 1990 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
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When I'm 68040...

By now I'm sure that most of you have heard of Motorola's speedy new chip, the 68040. Motorola finally announced this week that it will start shipping the 68040 in quantity, an announcement which a number of companies were waiting anxiously for. Of those, NeXT is probably the most important since the new NeXTStations and NeXTCubes can't ship until the 68040 arrives in bulk. Motorola is rushing the chips out in an effort to meet manufacturers' needs.

This is all well and good for Apple as well, since it's no secret (or at least we don't think it is :-)) that Apple has been working on a 68040-based Macintosh. However, Apple has also been rumored to be working on a RISC-based (reduced instruction set computing) computer that would use Motorola's 88000 line of processors. There is a slight problem with the Motorola chips though. In true Nancy Reagan spirit, Motorola recently instituted a drug-testing policy for its employees, a policy that caused a number of Motorola's engineers, most significantly the ones in the 68040 and RISC departments, to resign in protest. That may be another reason Motorola rushed the 68040 ship date - they didn't want manufacturers getting worried about chip availability

It's unclear whether or not the Apple RISC machine will be a Macintosh or not, although I personally think it would be a large mistake to introduce yet another platform into the market. Such a RISC machine should at least have a Macintosh emulation mode. Apple has said that it will only use the 68000 family in the Mac, but some people wonder if this is true, in light of last week's news that Apple and VLSI Technology and Acorn Computer Group plc formed a new company in Cambridge, England (would someone in the UK please tell us what that plc stands for?).

The company, Advanced RISC Machines (ARM) will develop cheap RISC processors that consume little power. Such processors would be extremely useful in the next generation of portable computers, perhaps even the sort that General Magic is working on. Another likely possibility for the RISC processor would be in a laser printer's rasterizing board. The greater the resolution of a laser printer, the greater the need for processing power, particularly with complex images, and Apple no longer has a high-end laser printer now that 600 and 1000 dpi printers are readily available from companies such as LaserMax. Apply that logic as you will, we've heard nothing specific and are merely connecting related points of information.

Information from:
John Catsoulis -- jtc@latcs1.oz.au
Nigel Cliffe -- ncliffe@axion.bt.co.uk
Ian Harries -- ih@doc.ic.ac.uk
Lawrence D'Oliveiro -- ldo@waikato.ac.nz

Related articles:
PC WEEK -- 03-Dec-90, Vol. 7, #48, pg. 17, 153
InfoWorld -- 03-Dec-90, Vol. 12, #49, pg. 5

Disinfectant 2.4

It's gotten so that we can't even think of good titles for this article any more. It's repetitive, we know, and there's not much we can do to make it interesting short of telling lawyer jokes (no offense to any lawyers of course, most of our lawyer jokes come from lawyer friends. "What!" you say. "These people have friends who are lawyers? And here we thought they were normal!").

In any event, there is a new version of Disinfectant. The version number is 2.4, and you should grab a copy next time it's convenient. We probably don't sound terribly alarmed and in truth we aren't. The new virus that 2.4 finds is a new strain of the ZUC B virus, which originated in Italy. We initially thought there wasn't much cause for concern, but just this week, a copy of ZUC B was found here in Ithaca, New York, USA. There are a few other minor fixes and small things that John cleaned up in 2.4 and it's worth having, in case a ZUC B virus tries to sneak into your computer. Pick it up from your favorite purveyor of free software.

Information from:
John Norstad -- jln@casbah.acns.nwu.edu
America Online: JNorstad
CompuServe: 76666,573
AppleLink: A0173


Afternoon, The Novel

It's not just a state of mind, it's a time of day. Afternoon is also the title of perhaps the first work of fiction that requires a computer to be read. I stress the phrase "work of fiction" because most people immediately think of the text adventure games popularized by Zork and others from Infocom. However, Afternoon is different. It is truly fiction and bears no resemblance to a game or puzzle. There is nothing to solve, nowhere to go, no prize to capture. In essence, there is no more goal in Afternoon than there is in Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises" or any other papertext. With fiction, if there is a goal at all, it would be what some have called the completion of self, i.e. when you feel that you are satisfied with the fiction. In papertexts, that usually happens at the end, though I've stopped reading a book in the middle because it was completed to my satisfaction (a nice way of saying it was lousy). In hyperfiction, you may never read everything, but that doesn't matter so long as you feel that you've read a complete story.

If you like modern fiction, and particularly if you like the idea of an ever-changing, fluid fiction, I highly recommend Michael Joyce's Afternoon. It runs on the Mac 512KE and above, sells for $19.95 from Eastgate Systems, and if you act fast, you may even get an autographed disk. Afternoon is the first fiction written in Storyspace, a program that Michael Joyce helped to create. Storyspace will also be marketed by Eastgate and is specifically designed for writing hypertext. I shouldn't say too much more about it for now, since it will be released soon, but suffice it to say that Storyspace is an excellent hypertext authoring system. I personally have written the equivalent of over 250 pages in it, so I should know what I'm talking about. Stay tuned...

Eastgate Systems -- 800/562-1638 -- 617/924-9044

Information from:
Mark Bernstein, Eastgate Systems
CompuServe -- 76146,262
Internet -- 76146.262@compuserve.com


AT&T&NCR

What a lot of letters! It may become reality if AT&T succeeds in its bid to buy NCR. So far NCR has refused (and I may not have this exactly right - stocks are not my strong suit) stock offers of $85 and $90 per share, but AT&T isn't giving up. There's been talk of $100 per share, and NCR has proposed $125 per share. One way or another, it's a lot of money.

AT&T is probably looking at NCR as a excellent way to finally get a decent computer line. NCR makes a huge family of computers and just released a whole slew of new ones. AT&T, on the other hand, has had poor results in the computer market. Computers like the AT&T PC 6300 and a pseudo-personal Unix box flopped in the market. So on that account, AT&T could get back into what it must see as a lucrative market, especially considering that AT&T Unix is a popular operating system and a number of the NCR computers run Unix.

The deal goes both ways, of course. NCR isn't known for their customer service, or rather they are known for mediocre customer service, whereas AT&T usually gets decent ratings on that score. In addition, NCR recently announced WaveLAN, a wireless network, though little has been said about it since its introduction. AT&T's clout behind WaveLAN might give it a serious boost in what is bound to become a large market eventually. Motorola has announced a more ambitious radio network, Apple has asked for FCC clearance for a portion of the bandwidth, and just recently Toshiba announced that it was working on the low end, a method of wireless communication between peripherals, which would eliminate the massive wire nest behind everyone's desks (where the wire rats live :-)). Who knows what AT&T could do with WaveLAN if it managed to acquire NCR and quickly pushed WaveLAN into the marketplace?

Related articles:
InfoWorld -- 26-Nov-90, Vol. 12, #48, pg. 21

Not Exactly a Prodigy

The US political climate is about as strange as the average Ithaca weather in that it's seldom predictable, but often involves slush. Battles have been waged over issues like flag burning (does it count if I throw a TIFF image of the American flag in my Mac's trash can?) and other free expression issues. Electronic freedoms have been in the news as well, what with the FBI seizing the equipment of suspected electronic burglars. It's even gone so far that Mitch Kapor and others formed the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group dedicated to educating both the government and the public about electronic freedoms.

In the midst of this thicket of confusion, up pops Prodigy, the online service run by IBM and Sears, two of the more conservative companies in the solar system. On the face of it, Prodigy sounds like a great deal, a flat rate of $9.95 for a month no matter how long you spend online. There are a few drawbacks, such as a fifth of the screen devoted to advertising and an interface from hell, but people didn't mind that. Then came the slush. Prodigy decided that it wasn't making enough money, so it raised the monthly rates and started charging 25 cents for each mail message over 30 per month. Considering that it costs the same amount to send real mail and have someone pick it up at your house and deliver it your friend, people became unhappy. First they started grumbling in the bulletin board areas, then in private mailing lists when Prodigy informed them that their griping was uninteresting and wouldn't allow it posted. That wasn't enough, so Prodigy changed its guidelines to make such mailing lists illegal. In addition, Prodigy expelled the most vocal of the dissenters and starting screening even private mail to be sure its guidelines aren't weren't violated. Now there's a nasty job.

Due in part to the massive bad press, though, Prodigy now says that it will reinstate the people it expelled if they sign letters admitting that they harassed other Prodigy members and advertisers with their protest. From what we've heard, Prodigy's offer has been turned down cold. The other online services have been happily taking the users who are unhappy with Prodigy's censorship practices.

This ugly incident point more towards a larger issue of the boundary between email and normal mail. Opening a letter that's not addressed to you is a US federal crime, and it's no better for a mail carrier to do so. Similarly, free speech guarantees that you can say what you want in person, but that doesn't seem to apply to electronic discussions. In our opinion, freedom of expression should not be limited by the medium of expression, but only by its ability to directly harm another person. An excellent example is Usenet, where lots of unpleasant and controversial subjects are discussed. You can say anything you wish without fear of legal reprisal (except for some local computer abuse laws). However, if what you say is deemed inappropriate for any reason, prepare to be flamed. That internal set of checks and balances serves to properly compartmentalize topics, so if your message belongs in alt.sex.chains&whipped_cream, it had better not show up in comp.sys.mac.misc. In the vast majority of cases, the existence of appropriate forums is enough; and in the few exceptions, public uproar serves to keep the peace. If only the rest of the electronic world were so reasonable.

Information from:
Heidi Aycock -- heidia@samba.acs.unc.edu
Don -- donc@microsoft.UUCP
Clayton Cramer -- cramer@optilink.UUCP
David Lemson -- lemson@ux1.cso.uiuc.edu

Related articles:
PC WEEK -- 03-Dec-90, Vol. 7, #48, pg. 13
InfoWorld -- 26-Nov-90, Vol. 12, #48, pg. 5
MacWEEK -- 04-Dec-90, Vol. 4, #41, pg. 36

Reviews/03-Dec-90

  • MacWEEK
    • Accounting Packages, pg. 61
      • Great Plains Accounting Series
      • Insight Expert Accounting Series
      • SBT Database Accounting Library
      • (these things don't come in parallel :-))
    • Studio/32, pg. 61
    • Adobe Illustrator 3.0, pg. 74
    • Sonar Bookends, pg. 76
    • Editorial Advisor, pg. 78
    • Solarian, pg. 78
    • Might & Magic II, pg. 79
    • OCR Systems, pg. 107
      • OmniPage 2.1
      • Parallel Reader
      • Typist
      • TopScan CDP 9000
      • TopScan CDP 6000
      • ScanReader
      • TextPert 3.5
      • Read-It! O.C.R 2.1
      • Read-It! O.C.R Personal 2.1
      • Datacopy AccuText 2.0
  • InfoWorld
    • Adobe Illustrator 3.0, pg. 64

References:

  • MacWEEK -- 04-Dec-90, Vol. 4, #41
  • InfoWorld -- 03-Dec-90, Vol. 12, #49

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