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View the documentTechBITS/16-Sep-91
View the documentCE Ships QuickMail
View the documentUtility Troubles
View the documentClassic II vs SE/30
View the documentInternal Gray-Scale
View the documentReviews/16-Sep-91
View the documentFoot Notes

Topics:

  • TechBITS/16-Sep-91
  • CE Ships QuickMail
  • Utility Troubles
  • Classic II vs SE/30
  • Internal Gray-Scale
  • Reviews/16-Sep-91

Copyright 1991 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
Information: <info@tidbits.com> Comments: <editors@tidbits.com>


TechBITS/16-Sep-91

Apple recently informed dealers that the Macintosh Portable backlit display upgrade will no longer be available. This upgrade combined a replacement screen with a new ROM and a controller card that could provide original Portable owners with the backlit display of the "new" Portable (no relation to the new PowerBooks that we've heard so much about lately). Considering how many original Portable owners are still out there, it's surprising that Apple would do this with no warning. Perhaps they felt that anyone who really wanted to upgrade would already have done so, or perhaps they simply needed all the backlit active matrix displays they could get their hands on for the PowerBooks.

The 16 September issue of Singapore's "Asian Computer Weekly" publication contained an interesting article describing the "PIC" (Personal Intelligent Communicator), an upcoming palmtop computer that's a joint venture among Apple, Sony, and General Magic. The article says that the PIC, which will bear the General Magic name, is "a Mac-like pen-based palmtop with a built-in cellular modem and a semi-proprietary OS plus a HyperCard-like interface, weighing under two pounds." This actually sounds quite a bit like Sony's existing PalmTop model. The PalmTop's address-book/appointment-diary feature looks very much like a HyperCard stack.

CE Software, Inc., the e-mail industry giant whose only major DOS products to date have been for the sole purpose of interfacing with their Mac products (QuickMail and InOut are the ones that come to mind, though rumour has it there's a Windows 3.0 version of CalendarMaker in the works), has announced that they'll be shipping a Windows version of DiskTop in the fourth quarter. DiskTop for the Mac is a popular file-and-folder navigation desk accessory that provides most of the functions of the Finder and then some. The Windows version will be a real boon for users who've been struggling with DOS file-and-directory management, or even with the Windows Program Manager and File Manager. The $99 product will run on any machine that is capable of running Windows 3.0, and even goes beyond the Mac version in functionality. The Windows version will include multiple File View windows, timed launching and recurring timed launching, and group organization for its launch menu, all features that would be a handy addition to the Mac version.

Information from:
Pythaeus
CE Software propaganda
Sue Nail -- AOL: AFC Sue


CE Ships QuickMail

The estimated 400,000 worldwide QuickMail users will be pleased to hear that CE Software, Inc. is now shipping the long-awaited version 2.5, a major upgrade to QuickMail that offers improved server architecture, many new features, System 7 compatibility, a vastly-improved QM Remote, and an integrated packaging scheme that puts all versions in one box. Version 2.5 is a free upgrade to current QuickMail 2.2.x users who request an upgrade immediately. New packages range in price from $4699 for a new 100-user package to $199 for a 1-user complete package or $99 for a 1-user add-on package (the most common package, the 10-user package, is now $599).

QuickMail's server architecture has been improved to allow the software to store or distribute only one copy of any given message or file enclosure, rather than storing separate copies for each recipient. This will increase server performance, since multiple copies won't need to be created, and will dramatically reduce the required disk space for messages with multiple addressees. Similarly, only one copy of each message needs to be sent to other servers on a QuickMail network, or to remote systems through QM's telecommunications options.

Among the additions to QuickMail's feature set is a thorough redesign of the QM Administrator software, which handles all telecommunications tasks as well as administrative ones, to support the Macintosh Communications Toolbox. This means that QuickMail is no longer restricted to communicating by modem, and could in fact talk with other QuickMail sites over a serial line, the Internet, a LAT connection, or any other as-yet-undreamed-of pathway, with the addition of the appropriate CTB tools. This also means that connections using CE's QM-Direct (formerly "Telecom") and QM-QM bridges won't be restricted to the 128-byte XMODEM file transfer protocol of earlier versions; users could implement just about any file transfer protocol for which they can find a CTB tool. (As of this writing, there's still no ZMODEM tool available that I know of, but one is expected from Pacer any day now.)

Other new features include easy installation or upgrading using Apple's Installer software, heightened network security, and simpler network-wide updating of address books, group address lists, and forms. For managers of mixed networks, QuickMail 2.5 includes a file-based server option, that communicates with PC workstations through files on a commonly-accessible file server, rather than over an AppleTalk network. When combined with the existing PC client software, which supports PCs on an AppleTalk network, this file-based server option will greatly increase the number of PCs that can use QuickMail, and will make QuickMail far more affordable to PC users, since an AppleTalk card will now be optional if the computer is already on a network with a Novell, 3+ Open LAN Manager, Banyan Vines, or DEC PCSA file server with AFP support.

QuickMail 2.5 is almost fully compatible with System 7. As anticipated, the client software (the QuickMail desk accessory and QM Remote software) is fully compatible with System 7 in either 24-bit or 32-bit addressing mode. Thanks to pressure from users, CE has also made the server software (the QMServer and NameServer control panels, as well as the QM Administrator application) compatible with System 7 in 24 bit mode. 32-bit support for the server software, which was felt to be less crucial, is expected in the future. Since few users run QuickMail servers on user workstations, and even fewer require those workstations to be in 32 bit mode, 24-bit System 7 compatibility should be fine for now, and will allow network administrators to upgrade their AppleShare servers to AppleShare 3.0 (which will require System 7) when the time comes, without causing problems for QuickMail.

The product can't really be called "System 7 Savvy," though, as it does not offer advanced System 7 features such as balloon help, AppleEvents handling, or publish and subscribe. It does have some nifty color icon families, though. :-)

One of the most visible changes for users will be the new version of QM Remote. This utility allows QuickMail users to connect to their server when they are away from the office network. Previous versions only supported modem communications, but with CTB support, QM Remote can now work over a wide-and-growing-wider range of communications paths. More importantly, the remote access software looks and acts much more like the QuickMail desk accessory than did earlier versions. As an example, a remote user will now have full access to such features as custom forms, address books, group address lists, and message filing. In fact, users who carry their hard disks with them will have complete access to the SAME forms, address books, groups, and personal mail folders, whether they are at their desks or on the road.

A QuickMail improvement that should have resellers and mixed-network managers cheering is the bundling of all QuickMail versions into a single package. Beginning with version 2.5, all QuickMail packages include not only the Macintosh software, but also the DOS and OS/2 client software needed to support PCs with either an AppleTalk connection or a common file server, using QuickMail's new file-based server option. (The OS/2 software has just entered final beta testing, so customers who receive the first batch of 2.5 packages will find a coupon inside which they can exchange for the OS/2 version as soon as it is available. At that point, future shipments will include the OS/2 version in the box.)

International versions of QuickMail 2.5 are in the works, and Jodi Barsch from CE's international department expects upgrades for the existing French, German, Swedish, Danish, and Italian versions to be available in late October or November. At the same time, CE is working on a new Spanish version of the software, thanks to increasing demand from Spain and even from South America. You may remember hearing about CE's new KanjiTalk version of QuickMail 2.2.3 several weeks ago; a 2.5 version of this product is in the works as well, though because the Kanji version uses two-byte-characters, it's not just a matter of translation, as it is with the European language versions. A Kanji version of 2.5 should ship in the first half of 1992.

CE's relief at getting QuickMail 2.5 out the door (it was originally intended to ship in 1990) is best expressed by the T-shirt sent to beta testers with their copy of the 2.5 upgrade. The shirt, which bears the legend "Excedrin Headache Number 2.5" on the front, has the following Lettermanesque list on the back (reprinted with permission):

Top 12 QuickMail Warnings

  1. Do NOT taunt QuickMail!

  2. QuickMail cannot be used as a lubricant.

  3. QuickMail is bigger than your Dad! Na nah na nah boo boo!

  4. QuickMail should be used only under close adult supervision . . . place on network, ignite and get away!

  5. CE Software, Inc., is not responsible for any injuries sustained from prolonged contact with QuickMail or its gateways.

  6. QuickMail may decelerate suddenly.

  7. QuickMail has the right to remain silent and be represented by an attorney in a court of law.

  8. QuickMail reserves the right to refuse to answer any questions which would tend to incriminate it.

  9. QuickMail may contribute to high blood pressure and/or premature baldness.

  10. QuickMail is not now, nor has it ever been a member of, or associated with, the Communist Party.

  11. When not in use, QuickMail should be refrigerated promptly.

  12. QuickMail's code was derived from alien carvings found on a meteor discovered in a farm field in Iowa.

Existing QuickMail owners should make sure that they send in their upgrade requests immediately. CE's offer for a free upgrade from 2.2.x to 2.5 only lasts until 30 September, after which there will be a $25 upgrade charge. If you haven't received an upgrade notice with the appropriate form, contact CE immediately so that you won't miss out. Owners of versions earlier than 2.2.x may also upgrade at a discounted price (such as $95 for a 10-user package), and should contact CE for details.

CE Software, Inc. -- 515/224-1995 -- Fax 515/224-4534
CESOFTWARE on AppleLink, MCI Mail, AOL, GEnie, and Connect

Information from:
CE Propaganda
Jodi Barsch
Sue Nail -- AOL: AFC Sue


Utility Troubles

I'm a utility fiend. I admit it freely. I like nothing better than using Norton or MacTools or something similar to recover damaged files or a whole hard disk (preferably not mine, however). I had a bunch of things to play with under System 6, 911 Utilities from Microcom, MacTools Deluxe from Central Point, and SUM II from Symantec. In addition, I've used Norton Utilities extensively for other people although I don't personally own it. The DOS world is similar - I own PC Tools Deluxe, again from Central Point, and I've used numerous versions of Norton for several years.

Having used all these programs, I've formed definite likes and dislikes. For instance, I like the way Norton fixes Macintosh hard disks with a high degree of success, but I have better luck recovering deleted files with Complete Undelete (part of the 911 Utilities from Microcom). SUM II still holds its own in recovering deleted files as well, and MacTools hangs in there with the best feature combination. PC Tools and Norton for DOS have both performed well in the past when I've recovered DOS files that bit the dust after someone blithely typed DELETE *.* and answered yes when DOS asked if they really want to delete all the files.

Recently, many people have complained about the System 7-compatible version of Norton Utilities for the Mac, and System 7-compatible versions of SUM II and 911 Utilities are still in the works (although it now appears that the next SUM II will be a $9 version 2.1, and not a free 2.0.2). Both Norton Utilities for DOS and PC Tools Deluxe 7.0 have gathered numerous bugs reports on online services.

In Norton Utilities for the Mac, the most dangerous bugs seem to live in the Speed Disk application. Several people have reported on Usenet that Speed Disk gets partly through defragmenting the hard disk, then dies with an "unknown error" and some numbers. At that point, the file that Speed Disk was working on may be destroyed. The best work-around for this problem is to run Apple's Disk First Aid and then Norton's Disk Doctor on the disk before running Speed Disk. Even that may not help, so for the moment we recommend avoiding Speed Disk. Other problems reported on the nets include incorrect file attributes set by Norton Disk Editor and various oddities in dealing with alias files. In addition, Directory Assistance (an SFDialog enhancer that shipped with 1.0) no longer comes with 1.1 because they couldn't stabilize it in time, and Symantec decided there was no reason to bother with the Fast Find DA since Finder 7 can find its own files. All in all, Norton isn't as good a value as it used to be.

If it's any consolation, the PC world may be in worse straits. We haven't heard of major problems with MacTools Deluxe 1.2 (the System 7-compatible version), but both PC Tools Deluxe 7.0 and Norton Utilities for DOS 6.0 are both a tad dangerous to use at the moment. On the other hand, the PC world hasn't undergone any changes like System 7, so PC users can continue to use the older versions. Do not try to use older versions of the Mac utilities on a disk that has been taken over by System 7. You could seriously tromp on your disk.

PC Tools Deluxe 7.0 is an impressive collection of utilities, and in previous versions has been useful and stable. In this version, the Backup and Undelete programs can freeze the computer at times, Backup may reject floppy disks for no reason, and Compress can chew up data. Ironically, Microsoft licensed Undelete from Central Point for inclusion in DOS 5.0, but I haven't heard if that version of Undelete suffers from the same bugs as the version in PC Tools Deluxe.

Norton Utilities has a similar string of bugs, including one that sounds vaguely familiar from the Mac version. Using Speed Disk, with the DOS FastOpen caching utility can result in lost data and a munged hard disk. Caching in general seems to be a problem with Norton, since Norton Cache itself doesn't get along with several major environments such as Windows and Desqview, and don't bother trying to use 5.25" disks when Norton Cache is installed since a bug can reboot the system on you.

From what we've heard Central Point is working on version 7.1 of PC Tools Deluxe and Symantec is trying to push maintenance releases of both Nortons and SUM II out the door. All of the updates should be available soon, if they aren't already. Users and companies alike can learn some lessons from this situation, so pay attention, as there will be a quiz later, after the latest version of some utility has munched your hard disk. Don't say I didn't warn you.

  • Don't upgrade to a new version of a utility that plays with your hard disk on a low-level without waiting for feedback from the guinea pig community. If you're a member of the guinea pig community, keep excellent and frequent backups using a backup program known to be reliable.

  • If you have problems with a utility package, complain your head off to the company involved. If you're paying good money for a utility package, it had damned well better not do anything evil to your hard disk. That's like buying a spreadsheet that gets your numbers irrevocably mixed up each time you print. A program should work as advertised, and should not contain fatal bugs that can damage a system. I'm not picky about a crash here and there, and I don't even mind losing what I was working on too much. But destroy other files in the process or corrupt data files and I get irritated fast.

  • Utility companies build reputations on trust alone. Companies should remove features or delay a release in order to ensure that a program has been thoroughly tested. And I mean thoroughly, on lots of different types of systems with lots of different variables.

  • Hire plenty of people for the tech support lines and pay attention to complaints on online services. I can think of few things more frustrating than having a new release of a utility package destroy my hard disk and then not even be able to get through to tech support on the phone or online. I may be technically competent, but if your program destroys my hard disk, I want hand-holding. I also want free upgrades to versions that work as a sign of good-will.

  • Keep the good utilities coming. There's nothing I like better than playing around with a new, cool, utility package on someone else's dead hard disk. Quite frankly, without these packages, we'd lose far more data than we do by suffering through the occasional bug.

Central Point Software -- 800/445-2110 -- 503/690-8080
Symantec -- 408/253-9600

Information from:
Bill Johnston -- johnston@minnie.me.udel.edu
Numerous people on America Online
Dave Martin -- DAVE@gergo.tamu.edu

Related articles:
PC WEEK -- 29-Jul-91, Vol. 8, #30, pg. 1, 8

Classic II vs SE/30

I'm fairly proud of the fact that I am currently working with the oldest of Apple's current Mac models, the SE/30. I bought it not because it was the obvious computer to buy at the time (it wasn't even available), but because all I could afford at first was an SE, and then the upgrade to an SE/30 was irresistible a year or so later. In retrospect though, I think I made the correct choice for what I do, especially since I was able to add a Micron card and Apple 13" color monitor to the SE/30 later on, which gave me the one thing I envied in the Mac II series. I am sad to see that the SE/30 will be going the way of the Fat Mac once Apple introduces the Classic II, a Classic run by a 68030 chip. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, there have been loads of complaints in Usenet discussions about the Classic II. Most people seem to feel that the Classic II is not an adequate replacement for the SE/30 even though it seems to be aimed at that target.

There are a couple of issues here. First, the Classic I (or would that be Classic Classic?) is still selling like there is no tomorrow. Although there may be no tomorrow for the Classic I, I suspect it does have a next week. The Classic II is aiming at exactly the same market as the Classic I, although Apple wants the people who weren't quite up to getting an LC (for whatever reason) to go for the Classic II. It will be significantly faster, at least twice as fast, but purists note that the SE/30 is probably four times as fast as the Classic I. So there's the first trade-off. The Classic II is faster than the Classic I, probably to the point of significant increases in utility, but doesn't begin to compare to the SE/30 in speed.

Second, the Classic II is a closed system like the Plus and the Classic I. The SE and SE/30 both had a single slot which added design and manufacturing costs to the price of the machine. When Apple introduced the Classic and discontinued the SE, an Apple rep told us that only about 8% of the people owning SEs had purchased expansion cards for their Macintoshes. I'm not sure of the exact figure for the SE/30, but it may be similar. There certainly aren't a lot of cards available for the SE/30 - believe me, I've checked. However, the Classic II does have a ROM/FPU socket. Unimaginative people will think of putting a new ROM chip or a 68882 coprocessor in it. Imaginative companies should come out with expansion boards that use that socket and provide a pass-through socket for a coprocessor as well. I guarantee that six to twelve months after the Classic II comes out, you'll be able to add a large monitor card or accelerator to a Classic II. That may help address my first point as well.

Third, I gather that the Classic II will have only two SIMM slots. My suspicion is then that Apple will solder 2 MB to the motherboard, allowing you to go to 2.5 MB with 256K SIMMs, 3 MB with the rare 512K SIMMs, 4 MB with the standard cheap 1 MB SIMMs, probably 10 MB with 4 MB SIMMs, and maybe even 18 MB with 8 MB SIMMs. I guess even 34 MB is possible with two 16 MB SIMMs, but I'd be surprised if the Classic II could handle the 8 MB or 16 MB SIMMs and even the 4 MB SIMMs would be a bonus. In comparison, the SE/30 had eight SIMM sockets which gave it bit more flexibility, again at the cost of, well, cost.

Fourth, we have to consider the market. Right now, the IIsi has a bit of competition from the SE/30 since the IIsi is only slightly faster once you add the coprocessor and it's more expensive. By phasing out the SE/30, Apple clarifies the muddy waters of the middle of the market (that's advertising alliteration, as in, "Buy a IIsi or suffer with an LC.") and still ensures that people can purchase the performance and expandability, if not for the price they'd like. When I said I wasn't surprised that people on Usenet were complaining, it was because the people who stand to be offended the most are the sophisticated users who liked the elegant compromise between size and expandability in the SE/30 (although once you start adding stuff, the size increases a lot. My system takes up close to four feet of desk space at this point.). In some ways, Apple may make a marketing mistake by alienating those users, but I'm sure the promise of the Classic II selling like the Classic I has blinded them to the plight of the sophisticated user (as in, "Buy a IIci or suffer with a IIsi.")

As I said before, Apple doesn't want the Classic II to replace the SE/30 as such. Instead, the LC and the IIsi will take over for the SE/30 and have done so for a while now. What people aren't considering when they look at the Apple lineup is that the only reason the SE/30 stuck around as long as it did is that it could be priced extremely competitively since it was old technology (remember the ROMs?), its design costs were long paid off, and it was the closest Apple came to a powerful Mac in the traditional toaster box. Now that the Classic II can be the high-end toaster, Apple can let the LC and IIsi replace the SE/30 as the mid-priced expandable machines. You may not like it (and I plan to stick with my SE/30 for some time yet), but it does make sense from Apple's standpoint.

Information from:
Michael Peirce -- outpost!peirce@claris.com
Subrata Sircar -- sksircar@stroke.Princeton.EDU
Terry Lee Thiel -- tlt38517@uxa.cso.uiuc.edu
Jim Gaynor -- gaynor@agvax2.ag.ohio-state.edu
Dan Goldman -- dan@hao.ucar.edu


Internal Gray-Scale

The latest in cool hardware comes from Micron, which has been working on a couple of video cards for the SE/30 (and this right after I get through talking about how there aren't very many PDS cards for the SE/30). Micron has had several video cards for the SE/30 for some time now, and I'm using the low-end one in my SE/30 right now. It's a modest $350 card, providing a 640 x 480 screen in 8-bit color, but it has always worked perfectly. If I wanted to be toasted by a large monitor, Micron also has a card that drives larger monitors.

Now however, Micron has a new 8-bit card for the SE/30 and is working on a 24-bit color card as well. "So what," you yawn, "there are a ton of 8-bit and 24-bit color cards around and even a couple for that obsolete old SE/30." Well, the big deal here is that both of the new cards will accept a $75 (or at least I think that's what the price will be. I can't find where I saw the price, but that's what I remember) daughter card called the Gray-Scale 30 (GS30) that will provide 256 shades of gray on the internal SE/30 9" monitor. That's pretty impressive! I've never seen any sort of hardware device which improved the internal monitors on compact Macs before, so Micron must have figured out some neat trick to get this to work.

There is a catch, of course. One video card can drive only one monitor. So if you buy the Color 30 (that's the 8-bit card) for about $300 (the price has come down slightly) and add a GS30 to it, you can either have an 8-bit internal gray-scale display or an 8-bit color or gray-scale external display (at which point your internal monitor is solely black and white). You cannot have both internal gray-scale and external 8-bit color at the same time, although, as I said, the internal monitor is still active in black and white when you have an external monitor connected. Sorry for getting your hopes up, but I'm sure that if Micron could have figured it out how to provide internal gray-scale at the same time as external 8-bit color, they would have done it. Nevertheless, it's easy enough to disconnect an external monitor to enable the internal gray-scale display. I know that sounds awkward, but since the SE/30 with an internal hard drive is quite transportable, you get a fast gray-scale system to tote around.

Micron is currently thinking of a way to allow current owners of the older SE/30 8-bit card to trade it in for a new Color 30 card (which could then have the GS 30 added to it). There are a few other reasons why you might want the new card, such as the fact that it can also drive 640 x 870 monitors like the Apple Portrait Display and that it comes with a "Virtual Video" cdev that provides a virtual desktop that can be larger than the physical monitor. I don't know offhand how fast the Virtual Video cdev is - if it's the same speed as Stepping Out II, I wouldn't ever use it, but if it implements hardware panning, it would be great. Overall though, if you have an SE/30 with that one slot empty, I can't think of a better way to fill it than with a Color 30 card augmented with a GS30 daughter board. You get 8-bit gray-scale immediately and the option to add a larger color monitor later. Not too shabby for that poor old SE/30.

Micron Technology -- 800/642-7661 -- 208/386-3800

Information from:
Erik A. Johnson -- johnsone@uxh.cso.uiuc.edu
Rick Larsen, Micron Rep -- MTechSprt on AOL


Reviews/16-Sep-91

  • MacWEEK
    • Claris Resolve, pg. 47
    • Mathematical packages, pg. 47
      • Maple 4.2.1
      • Mathematica 2.0
      • Theorist 1.11
    • WordScan Plus, pg. 52
    • ReadIt OCR Pro 3.0, pg. 52
    • Fair Witness, pg. 54
    • Michael's Draw, pg. 58
    • XLink, pg. 59
    • TopDown, pg. 60
  • PC WEEK
    • Disk Utilities, pg. 99
      • MacTools Deluxe 1.2
      • Norton Utilities 1.1
      • 911 Utilities 1.0

References:

  • MacWEEK -- 10-Sep-91, Vol. 5, #30
  • PC WEEK -- 09-Sep-91, Vol. 8, #36

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