Fax machines are useful in certain situations, no doubt, but indiscriminate use of fax machines strikes some as problematic, especially considering that thermal fax paper cannot be recycled. Fax quality is poor in comparison to output from a PostScript laser printer. In addition, it seems to be a waste of machinery to have a scanner, a laser printer, a modem, and a fax modem or machine when the capabilities of all of them can be combined into one unit. Some companies have come close to such combined machines, but not one has come up with one that works well in all modes.
New chips from National Semiconductor might help the process along by combining fax and scanner abilities with PostScript printing. Should the new chips be put on a controller board, the board could then control a scanner and fax modem transparently to the user. Look for announcements of implementations using these chips in the future as companies build hardware around them.
PC WEEK -- 14-May-90, Vol. 7 #19, pg. 1
PC WEEK -- 02-Jul-90, Vol. 7 #26, pg. 112
Apple handed out CD-ROMs containing alpha release 9 of System 7.0 to developers last week. Some interesting features of System 7.0 will include (if you haven't seen this everywhere already) a new and improved Finder, built-in file sharing capabilities, file aliases, outline fonts, application communication abilities, and virtual memory. Neat bonuses include optional dialog balloons containing context-sensitive help. System 7.0 will also see the demise of the Font/DA Mover (finally!) and the rise of a new version of HyperCard that will take advantage of inter-application communication features to produce stacks that are almost indistinguishable from applications.
System 7.0 is not all that Apple is talking about these days. Apple executives John Sculley and Michael Spindler both emphasized that Apple is trying to sell more Macs and would lower prices to do so. Lower prices on Macs and will mean lower margins for Apple, but may help Apple win over computer purchasers from purchasing low-priced PC-clones and Windows 3.0. In some respects Windows 3.0 will not directly compete with lower-end Macs because it runs well only on higher-end IBM-style machines (at least earlier versions of Windows required high-end machines; Windows 3.0 has not been released for long enough to know for sure how well it runs). In addition, Windows has yet to become popular among users who receive it free with their machines. Between 65 and 75 percent of these people never even use Windows because of the performance toll and the cost of buying Windows-specific applications.
MacWEEK -- 15-May-90, Vol. 4 #19, pg. 1
InfoWorld -- 14-May-90, Vol. 12 #20, pg. 1
PC WEEK -- 14-May-90, Vol. 7 #19, pg. 19
Recently the CheckFree electronic banking service has become available on the Mac after being available on the PC for some time. Based on reports from subscribers also on Usenet, CheckFree might be an expensive proposition. People are complaining about the security level offered by CheckFree. Evidently each user is assigned a four digit account password by the company that the user cannot change and which the customer is informed of by normal mail. With only 10,000 passwords to choose from, it would be relatively easy for a criminal to break into an account (the criminal would also need the person's address and social security number). Users of CheckFree have unlimited liability should anyone break into their accounts.
CheckFree's software doubles as a checkbook manager and has received favorable, if brief reviews from Usenet. It evidently uses the Macintosh interface well and allows the user to assign IRS form and line numbers to certain expenses. That information can be exported to MacInTax at the end of the year. Currently, the electronic funds transfer (EFT) part of the software (on one end or another, it wasn't quite clear) is broken and will be fixed soon after you read this. Considering the security problems with CheckFree, though, not being able to use EFT may be a feature, not a bug.
In a news item that was completely missed by the trade magazines this week, Symantec and Peter Norton Computing announced plans to merge. A number of people on Usenet saw the news in the LA Times and the NY Times (sorry, no specific references were mentioned). No one was sure what the significance of the merger would be, but several possibilities were mentioned. First, Norton Utilities for the Mac would disappear and SUM would acquire its unique capabilities. Rich Siegel of Symantec, disagreed with this, however. Second, SUM will go away and Norton Utilities for the Mac would replace it entirely. This isn't that hard to believe considering that SUM II was a complete rewrite of SUM, and enough complaints about the interface of SUM II were registered that the next version was mentioned as needing another complete rewrite. Also, Norton Utilities for the Mac has gotten rave reviews from people who have seen it.
In any event, Symantec stands to gain by the merger. Norton Utilities is the dominant utility package on the PC despite some stiff competition from PC Tools Deluxe 6.0 (a combined desktop manager, DOS shell, file recovery, and backup program that stands at or near the top of its field in each category) so Symantec will become dominant in both the Mac and PC utility market. In addition, Peter Norton Computing has a well-organized worldwide dealer network that Symantec would like to use. Of course, Symantec also gets to use Peter Norton's new technology without having to duplicate it or compete with it.
John Starta -- John.Starta@p90.f15.n114.z1.fidonet.org
Chuq Von Rospach -- email@example.com
Ephraim Vishniac -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Rich Siegel -- email@example.com
Paul Jonathan Estalilla Go -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Those people who either attend or work at educational institutions are often eligible for significant discounts on computer hardware and software. The computer companies view the discounts as a good way of attracting future members of the business world to their products, and members of educational institutions view the discounts as just reward for the often-lower salaries of higher education in comparison to big business. Recently, though discount mail order houses had started to compete with the higher education prices. In response to that competition and to the continuing allegations that the Mac is too expensive in comparison to PC-clones, Apple just dropped the prices on the compact Mac significantly.
Warwick Daw of UCLA mentioned some of the new prices at UCLA (these will vary between institutions). A Mac Plus is $699, a double-drive SE is $1099, an SE/30 with one floppy is $1849, and a Portable with one floppy is $3149. A 40 megabyte hard drive adds between $300 and $450 to the price. The SE/30 is particularly attractive in comparison to the Mac IIcx now, since the IIcx's price remained the same, about $2800 for the main unit without the monitor.
Using prices from other discussions on Usenet, an impressive SE/30 system could be put together for a total of about $2800. That would include a $699 external 105 megabyte Quantum from Alliance Peripheral Systems, a company which has recently gotten excellent reviews on the net, and an extra 4 megabytes of RAM from one of the many companies selling RAM for about $65 per megabyte.
Apple hasn't achieved the low-cost Mac that will take the market by storm, since a Mac Plus still isn't particularly powerful for $699, but it appears that Apple is finally willing to try to compete on price in some markets.
Barry Brown -- email@example.com
Warwick Daw -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Marty Bies -- email@example.com
William R. Krempp -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Homer Simpson -- email@example.com.Buffalo.EDU
Pat Stephenson -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Goldfield -- email@example.com
Manuel Bouyssou from Paris reports that the first 68040 machine on the market will probably be the next NeXT (perhaps the NeXT YeT? This is another name that's going to be difficult, much like the upgrade to Symantec's MORE, which was called MORE II, but which many people felt should have been called Still MORE.) The 68040 will run at 50 MHz and the black box will contain 8 megabytes of memory, a faster floptical drive with access times around 40 to 45 milliseconds, and an internal 300 megabyte hard drive. Although Steve Jobs has said that a color NeXT will be available this year, it is not clear if the 68040 will include color. Upgrades will be available and considering the modular construction of the cubes, should be an easily-performed motherboard swap.
Manuel Bouyssou -- firstname.lastname@example.org
MacWEEK -- 15-May-90, Vol. 4 #19, pg. 1
InfoWorld -- 14-May-90, Vol. 12 #20, pg. 101
TML Systems is developing a set of seven software modules that, when completed, will challenge Microsoft Works 2.0. Collectively called Zebra, the modules share tools with each other so appropriate tools are available in any module (i.e. the same text tools appear in most modules, giving you access to spell checking and style sheets even if you are not in the word processing module). All told, the modules include a ones for word processing, charting and graphing, drawing, painting, telecommunicating, managing databases, and using spreadsheets. Live links such as those promised for all software under Apple's System 7 allow flexible data manipulation. Zebra and Works will list for the same price - $295.
TML Systems -- 904/636-8592
Macworld -- Jun-90, pg. 111
We at TidBITS have a fondness for interesting ways of connecting computers together, which accounts for a number of past articles on networking with radio waves and electric lines. Now it seems that even Apple is getting in on this. The Apple Complex Systems group is working on a program called MacKDT which can perform normal telecommunications actions over a radio-frequency modem made by Motorola. Motorola already has a line of hand-held wireless terminals that use the radio-frequency modem. The Motorola terminals and the Mac will communicate with other machines over the ARDIS (Advanced Radio Data Information Service) networkthe administrators of which requested that Apple develop MacKDT.
ARDIS will supposedly go online in early April, although we have heard nothing about it since then, and will operate at 4800 bits per second (bps) at first. Later, ARDIS plans to increase speeds up to 19200 bits per second (roughly equivalent to baud). Even 19200 bps isn't that fast considering that AppleTalk runs at about 230,000 bps, but 19200 bps is comparable in speed to standard modems.
The really interesting bit is that the article claims that Apple is investigating ways of incorporating the RF modem into the Macintosh hardware, particularly that of the Mac Portable. The only drawback would be that ARDIS may be the only provider of service, though it is imaginable that they could provide a gateway to standard telephone lines.
ARDIS -- 708/913-1215
Macworld -- Jun-90, pg. 107
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