Tune into TidBITS this week to find numerous MailBITS - including news of MacTCP 2.0.6, a QuickMail update deal that includes QuicKeys, how to get Apple press releases via email, and more on Intel's Pentium problems. We have articles out about Internet Config, a new program that simplifies setting up MacTCP programs, and Kids World, a screen saver construction kit for kids. The issue finishes with holiday gift suggestions from readers.
This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
Last week I switched the way our email comes in from UUCP to SMTP, which provides for a little more speed in receiving incoming messages (and runs over the 56K Frame Relay connection rather than the modem). The transition may have produced a few bounces, but by the time you read this most everything should have been ironed out. However, please note that auto-replies (such as the <email@example.com> address) won't be handled any more quickly, since nothing currently does auto-replies via SMTP.
The technique I'm using may be of interest. Originally, <tidbits.com> pointed at my UUCP account. Now, <tidbits.com> points at <king.tidbits.com>, my SE/30 running MailShare. I set MailShare up to forward all the auto-reply addresses to <penguin.tidbits.com>, which is my 660AV running UUCP/Connect. So, when you send email to <firstname.lastname@example.org>, it goes to my SE/30, then MailShare forwards it back to my provider's host to wait for the next UUCP connection, at which point your message comes into the 660AV, is processed, and awaits the next connection to go back out. In contrast, my personal mail waits on the SE/30 until I have Eudora check my POP account there.
Also, since UUCP accepts email for all userids at the domain, mail to "aec" or other incorrect addresses used to get through to my machine and I'd find it weeks later. Now, incorrectly addressed email will bounce back to its sender. [ACE]
MacTCP 2.0.6 is out in the form of an updater application that takes a clean copy of MacTCP 2.0.4 and converts it into MacTCP 2.0.6. I cannot emphasize "clean" sufficiently - you cannot update a copy of MacTCP 2.0.4 that has ever been opened or loaded into memory; instead, you must use a new copy from a master disk. That said, the update fixes some relatively technical bugs and offers performance enhancements primarily for SLIP and PPP dialup users. The update is definitely worthwhile, especially if you've experienced problems with 2.0.4. There's also an updater from 2.0.2 to 2.0.4 available, if all you have is a copy of 2.0.2. There are no updaters from MacTCP 1.x, though, so if that's all you have, you'll have to get a copy of MacTCP 2.0.x from the usual sources (System 7.5, many commercial Internet programs, my book, and so on). Check my Web site for instructions on updating if you have MacTCP 2.0.4 from the second edition of Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh.
QuickMail early birds miss out on CE's latest offer. Hoping to entice more of their installed user base to upgrade to QuickMail 3.0 (see TidBITS-240), CE Software is now offering a free copy of QuicKeys (the company's personal automation software) for each multi-user QuickMail package upgraded. (Upgrading costs $12 per user.) The offer is valid until the end of December, 1994. Mixed reviews and the absence of academic or quantity discounts for the upgrades have kept many sites from moving to QuickMail 3.0. SoftArc is even advertising "sidegrades" to FirstClass from earlier versions of QuickMail at a lower per-user price. [MHA]
CE Software -- 800/523-7638 -- 515/221-1801 -- 515/221-2258 (fax) --<email@example.com>
Tom Collins <firstname.lastname@example.org> and others pointed out that there's a little checkbox in the MountCache Cache dialog that comes set to Disable Custom Icons (see my complaint in TidBITS-254). I presume Casa Blanca included that option because it can slow down the disk to use it, but Tom said he hadn't noticed any speed differences. So now I can have my custom icons and my 100- plus percent speedup. My mistake is doubly embarrassing since, while visiting Casa Blanca's offices this spring, I suggested the name MountCache for Drive7's utility for mounting removables and providing driver level caching. [ACE]
Johnathon Suker <email@example.com> commented that my technique of copying new System Folder files over the old ones and then moving them all back again could lead to trouble if some old and unnecessary System Update file or something similar was included by this process. I should have mentioned that I always go through the resulting folders and manually scan for files I know won't work with the new System. A slower method might involve opening both the old and the new folders and manually moving (from the old to the new) just non-Apple files that you know will work. [ACE]
Jason Polzin <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
The AppleFax service mentioned in TidBITS-254 is also available via anonymous FTP! All of the files are in Common Ground MiniViewer format. They include lots of great information such as 50 new features in System 7.5, and why you should use Virtual Memory if you have a Power Mac. Make sure to use the Color/Grayscale setting if you print to a PostScript laser printer or some of the text will not show up.
In addition SK Suh <email@example.com> comments that the AppleFax 800 numbers do work in Canada.
Pentium Bugs, Part II -- Following up on the Pentium division bug reported in TidBITS-253, Intel has confirmed that the math error can occur in single, double, and extended precision divides and potentially impact the precision of results from the 4th to the 19th significant digit. Intel maintains that the bug will not affect most Pentium users, and that, statistically, the bug is not likely to occur in hundreds (or even thousands) of years of normal use. However, engineers, scientists, researchers, and other power users remain concerned about the bug, and reports have circulated in the mainstream media. Intel pledges to work with users of applications involving intensive floating point calculations and, if necessary, replace their chips. In the meantime, intensive discussion of the bug continues to take place in the newsgroup <comp.sys.intel> and a FAQ is available (in DOS ASCII format) at:
On a related note, a new bug has surfaced in write-back and write-through caches of the 100 MHz version of Intel's Pentium chip (P100). The bug prevents multithreading from functioning at all on operating systems capable of supporting it (Windows NT, OS/2, and Unix, among others). Although it's possible to disable those caches, this results in a 30 percent performance reduction. The bug does not occur on lower-clock speed versions of the Pentium. Intel claims it has fixed the problem and is shipping correct versions of the P100. [GD]
Intel Technical support -- 800/628-8686 (US)
916/365-3551 (International) -- 44 (0) 793 696776 (Europe)
InfoWorld -- 28-Nov-94, Vol. 16, #48
by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A new program from Peter Lewis and Quinn "The Eskimo!" will continue to cement the Macintosh's position as the preeminent Internet client platform. Internet Config centralizes Internet preferences, simplifying the process of configuring MacTCP-based programs with information such as your preferred email address, FTP helper application, and program for opening JPEG images. Before Internet Config, configuring all the programs with the same information was almost as bad as going to multiple doctors to have health care committed on you, given that each doctor asks for approximately the same information, but on a different form.
Internet Config provides an interface for setting these preferences once and makes a database of those preferences available to other applications. In other words, after you enter your email address into Internet Config, both Anarchie and NewsWatcher can read it from the Internet Config database, and do not force you to enter it again and again.
Internet Config manages the following groups of preferences:
Programs must support Internet Config - there's no way for them to know about the preferences database otherwise. Luckily, the Internet Config development mailing list included most of the Macintosh Internet developers, and many of them have committed to supporting Internet Config in future versions of their programs. In addition, Peter Lewis's Register 1.1 and John Norstad's NewsWatcher 2.0b21 (to be released very soon) support it now. Applications slated to support Internet Config in the future include InterCon's TCP/Connect II, Aladdin's StuffIt family, Peter's Anarchie, and Jim Browne's NCSA Telnet.
Although Internet Config has broad-based support already, support in additional programs is critical to its success. I strongly encourage all Internet programmers to support Internet Config. It's a relatively minor programming task from initial reports. John Norstad said, "I figured this [Internet Config] would be reasonably easy to support, and it turned out to be even easier. There were no major problems or stumbling blocks - just a bunch of really easy code, and it worked with no major hassles."
Peter and Quinn have placed Internet Config and its source code in the public domain, and encourage others to build on it to provide additional functionality. Internet Config can play a huge role in making the Mac an even better Internet client, since it can make coherent the often confusing process of configuring many different programs.
The official support address for Internet Config is <email@example.com>. If you find a bug in Internet Config, forward details to that address. To discuss Internet Config in general, the <comp.sys.mac.comm> newsgroup is the best place to do so, since it allows programmers to stay in touch with the discussions without being overwhelmed with email.
Once again, kudos to Peter and Quinn for a job well done. You can retrieve Internet Config from all the main Internet FTP sites.
by Tonya Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
About twenty years ago, I enjoyed playing with colorforms. Colorforms came with shapes made of rubbery material, which could be placed on a smooth surface to create scenes. The smooth surface provided a theme (Spiderman, a tree ready to eat Charlie Brown's kite, and so on) and the shapes provided thematic characters and props. Bit Jugglers has taken the idea of colorforms, blended in sound and animation, and come out with a program called Kids World. Using Kids World, you set up a scene which can transmogrify into an animated screen saver module.
You start off in Kids World by choosing between one of six background scenes (my favorites are haunted world, space world, and dinosaur world). You can also choose a plain white or black world, or import a PICT.
After choosing a world, you then go to town with a wide selection of stamps - haunted world offers stamps for ghosts, witches, and the like; space world has space ships, rockets, and celestial objects. Although each world's stamps share an overall design, any stamp can go in any world. You want a buffalo in your backyard? No problem. Haunted windows in a farm house? The ghost happily obliges. If you tire of stamps, you can switch into painting mode and use a basic collection of painting tools to change the look of the world.
Each stamp and painting tool has an associated sound - I especially like the Erase tool, which makes a vacuuming noise. All this play proved so absorbing that I spent a full hour on it, about 45 minutes longer than I had intended.
When you tire of stamping and painting, you click the Go button to animate your creation. The scene and its stamps take over the entire screen and many of the stamps move about and make noises. Occasionally, the stamps interact with each other or the background - the ghostly door creaks open, rockets launch, witches cast spells, and the cowboy (if you wait a bit) lassos and is dragged off by the buffalo. Using an elegant interface, you have created an animated screen saver module. To edit your module, you click the Stop button, unobtrusively positioned in the upper left-hand corner. (The Stop button only shows in this Print Preview-like mode - it does not show when you use the module as a screen saver.)
Bit Jugglers also sells UnderWare (see TidBITS-192), a control panel that offers desktop patterns, background desktop animation, and screen saver functions. If you've seen UnderWare, you will recognize some of the stamps and animations.
For more long-lasting entertainment, you can use the module with UnderWare or After Dark. A copy of UnderWare comes with Kids World (but only with a few modules). Bit Jugglers encourages users to share the Kids World modules they create with friends who have Kids World - unfortunately, it seems that Kids World modules saved in After Dark format require the 3.3 MB of Kids World shared code, making it impossible to share Kids World modules with those who have only After Dark.
According to the manual, Kids World requires 4 MB RAM, System 7, and at least a 68020-based Macintosh. Kids World comes on two high-density disks, but Mac II owners can request 800K disks. The manual is short, clear, and accessible. Anyone trying to learn all there is to know about Kids World should read the ReadMe, which explains the Preferences dialog box.
I played with Kids World on a Power Mac 7100, Apple 13-inch color monitor, 8 MB RAM (doubled to 16) and System 7.1.2. As one would hope, I found the speed to be excellent, with the only slow-downs (five to ten seconds) occurring after I pressed the Go button to see the module as an animated screen saver (the slow-down did get slower on Adam's 660AV, taking about twenty seconds for the same module). My main disappointment was that the interactions between the stamps and the worlds were not more numerous and varied. Perhaps, even now, imaginative people at Bit Jugglers are planning more interactions for version 2.0. In the meantime, Kids World lists for $59.95, but its street price should be around $30. The colorful and attractive interface works nicely; you won't find any Barbies, Power Rangers, or Barneys lurking within; the program has more bells and whistles than I mentioned in this review; and kids should have a blast with it.
Bit Jugglers -- 415/968-3908 -- 415/968-5358 (fax)
If you've been wondering what might make a good Macintosh-oriented present, here are some suggestions, primarily from other TidBITS readers. These products should all be readily available from your local dealer or one of the mail order vendors. Enjoy!
Jack Rosenzweig <email@example.com> writes:
The coolest game out there by far is Marathon by Bungie, the Pathways Into Darkness guys. Marathon is way better, has amazing graphics, and is very fast on a Power Mac and pretty fast on slower machines. Net play is amazing. Marathon has the best Mac net play game we've seen yet. And we've done Spectre, Hornet, etc. I'm sure others will second this idea, what with 1,500 downloads of the much-anticipated demo from America Online in only six days. And that takes 43 minutes at 14,000 bps.
Doc Kinne <firstname.lastname@example.org> enthuses:
All right, I'll admit it; I'm a simulations geek. This Maxis title sets the standard for the rest of their work. Fondly known as SimCity 2K, SimCity 2000 allows the simulator in you to go nuts! You can zone areas to nearly any size and shape you want. You can now build your city on hilly, three dimensional terrain with highways, tunnels, schools, libraries, desalination plants and water pumps. Are you part mole? Now you can build your city's subway and waterworks system underground as well! The user interface has been improved with tear-off menus and multi-function buttons. Best of all, SimCity 2K has just been released in a PowerPC-native mode. If you liked the original SimCity game, or any of Maxis's other products, get this game! Excuse me, I have to go deal with an alien spacecraft turning my downtown into a forest.
Brad Andrews <email@example.com> comments:
I recently was involved with previewing SimTown (a town simulator) and SimTower (which simulates a skyscraper) for a game magazine and I would strongly recommend either of these if they make it out for Christmas. (I would guess that SimTown might, while SimTower is less likely.) Both games live up to the free-form "play" of SimCity and seem a lot better than the other sequels I have played. Even with an early version with quirks I found myself coming back to try something new and see what it did. That speaks well of the game system and I am certain the final versions will be well worth the cost.
Jim Niemann <firstname.lastname@example.org> seconds the motion (in one of only two duplicate suggestions we received):
SimTower is the latest electronic toy from Maxis (SimCity, SimCity 2000, SimEarth, SimAnt, SimLife, SimFarm, A-Train). This time, you are building a skyscraper starting from a bare piece of land. You need to balance your construction costs against the tenant's needs. As you move up levels, disasters such as terrorists and fires start appearing. Overall, this is an addictive simulator both for adults and kids (8 and up).
Hewett Bill <email@example.com> suggests:
The only games I play on the Mac are flight simulators. Hands down the best of these is Graphic Simulation's F/A-18 Hornet (see the review in the Jan-95 Macworld, in which it was awarded Best of '94). The 20 frame-per-second, highly detailed graphics and realistic mission scenarios bring the computer pilot into the action. The networking feature (which supports ARA) adds an additional dimension. I broke a sweat the first time a human opponent launched a Sidewinder missile close in! The current GSC supported version is 1.1.2 but there are very stable betas available on America Online and the net, 1.1.3b1 and b2, which add a more realistic (but more difficult to control) roll rate. Version 2.0 (Power Mac-native) and the add-on Korean Crisis missions should be available by Christmas. Version 2.0 is a free upgrade; now that's customer support! If you add a Thrustmaster Joystick/Throttle to your Mac there's less concern over the repetitive stress of typing, since you literally never touch the keyboard!
SK Suh <SKSuh@eworld.com> suggests a shareware game:
My current Macintosh game affliction (or addiction) is Tetris Max 2.3.1, which is shareware (and has been, of course, duly registered).
Harvey Barnett <firstname.lastname@example.org> also recommends shareware:
My favorite gift this season is a piece of shareware called Solitaire Till Dawn, published by Semicolon Software (see TidBITS-246). I can spend hours playing it.
Dan Bensky <email@example.com> suggests, for kids:
I have purchased a Sierra Online game called The Castle of Dr. Brain for more than one active and intelligent eleven-year old. The game is a series of puzzles. Some require pattern identification, some math, some word searches, some codes, some simple programming - you get the idea. It is fascinating and fun for the kids and gives their brains a workout. Since it has three levels of difficulty (same type of problems, just harder) it can be played for quite a while. On top of all that, it is under $20 (probably because the graphics, though serviceable, are nothing to rave about and the game is a couple of years old).
Sam and David Gasster <firstname.lastname@example.org> offer:
David, my three and a half year-old son, loves playing and learning on my Quadra 650. I have been running two of the Random House/Broderbund CD-ROM-based Living Books. They are Mercer Mayer's Just Grandma and Me, featuring the Little Critter, and Marc Brown's Arthur's Teacher Trouble. David enjoys these stories and learned to use the mouse to point and click in a short time. Each story opens with a menu that enables the reader to choose between "read-only" mode, "play-in-the-story" mode, and to choose the language (some come in English, Spanish, and Japanese). My son loves the "play-in-the-story" mode, where each page is displayed with live action and a narrator reads the highlighted text. The game then pauses to allow the child to "play" using the mouse. This is the best part because the programmers who developed these games have a great sense of humor. For example, click on Grandma Critter's mailbox and one of three things might happen: the door opens and a frog and water pour out, a monster hand reaches out and closes the box, or a cat shows up and meows. Part of the fun is searching each frame for these goodies. I sit and play it with him, but he can also occupy himself quite well without trashing my Mac. One of the things we do together is try to find specific words or items. If I ask him to find the word "Grandma" he looks at the text, finds the word and clicks it with the mouse and the computer responds by saying the word. Arthur's Teacher Trouble is about a spelling bee, so at the end there is a spelling section that we also have fun with. All-in-all the sound, graphics, skill level, and humor make this one of our favorite father-son learning hacks, and I plan to ask Santa for more in the Living Books series (around $40).
Sumo, from MacSoft, attempts to take the sport of sumo wrestling and turn it into an abstract computer game. You control a ball and attempt to knock a similarly sized ball off a circular platform. As you progress through the rounds, you cycle through different opponents, each of which with different tactics and increasing skills. Two-player play is available, but one person must use the keyboard, which proved rather difficult in maneuvering a round ball around a circular platform.
Thermopad -- For the latest in cool mousepads, check out the Thermopad. Between rubber padding and a textured lexan surface (like any other good mousepad) is a hidden pattern in heat-sensitive liquid crystal. On the right side, the heat of your hand reveals a Celtic pattern (it's invisible when cold). The left side of the mousepad sports an embedded liquid crystal thermometer that tells the room temperature in Fahrenheit and Celsius. It costs $16 and is only available from Creative Edges Toy Company, which is offering to pay USPS shipping costs for TidBITS readers (so mention where you heard about it to save a couple of bucks).
Creative Edges Toy Company -- 408/622-9854 --<email@example.com>
Roger Weeks <firstname.lastname@example.org> recommends a more esoteric program:
For MIDI sequencing freaks and other musical types, I highly recommend Emagic's Notator Logic Audio as the high end sequencing and notation program of choice. There's so much this program can do I'm still scratching the surface a month later. Bear in mind this was purchased with a $3,000 Digidesign Session 8, which enables me to record eight tracks of digital audio to my hard disk. However, this is the end-all and be-all of MIDI sequencers without all the nifty digital features. An environment window allows you to design your own MIDI delays, arpeggiators, and other effects. You can synchronize digital audio with MIDI data. A must have for any serious MIDI musician.
Neil E. Mickelson <email@example.com> comments:
Let's face it - Myst is the best game available for Mac adventurers right now, hands down. No violence (i.e. it meets parental approval), puzzles that make you use your head, and graphics and sound that draw you into the world like no other game I've ever played. This thing is a reason to buy a CD-ROM drive. I won't describe it more than that, since it would defeat the purpose of the game. This one's a keeper. Get it and lose yourself in the worlds of Myst today!!
Suman Chakrabarti <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
I have a few gift recommendations.
LabelOnce labels from APS. These puppies are fantastic, and I love the ability to use only one label per disk, and just erase it whenever I need to. I use them on my floppies, 270 MB SyQuest cartridges, and VHS videotapes.
Dragon's Lair CD-ROM. This classic faithfully reproduces the old arcade game that was one of the first to cost 50 cents (instead of 25). It "only" goes to 8-bit color, but has good hints, and you can get the actual answers by calling ReadySoft at a 905-number and going through their menu. $39.95, I think, from Educorp.
Educorp is selling a CD-ROM bundle including Lunicus, Jump Raven, and Who Killed Sam Rupert for $79.95. I've only played Lunicus so far, and that's highly cool. The other two have had good reviews in various spots. I think Jump Raven might even have made Macworld's top games list this year.
No, I haven't gotten Myst, yet. I'm saving the best for last.
David Johnson <email@example.com> offers a custom suggestion:
I recently found a great gift idea, made by Ultimate Software <firstname.lastname@example.org>. They make custom screensavers, and will scan your favorite photos into an After Dark module. I sent in pictures of my roommate's cats, and they sent back a module that displayed her kitties with cool zoom and melt effects, and had a little mouse running around with them. They have special modules for cats, dogs, and people.
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