close this bookTidBITS#02   19900423
View the documentWhite Knight Blackened
View the documentSuperDrives Stumble
View the documentAshton-Tate Tries Again
View the documentShacking Up With Tandy?
View the documentSpeed Dreams
View the documentCheap IBM Home Computer
View the documentWordPerfect Thinks Small
View the documentTeleportation Arrives
View the documentHead-mounted Screen
View the documentDictionary DA With A Twist
View the documentReviews/23-Apr-90
View the documentFoot Notes

Topics:

  • White Knight Blackened
  • SuperDrives Stumble
  • Ashton-Tate Tries Again
  • Shacking Up With Tandy?
  • Speed Dreams
  • Cheap IBM Home Computer
  • WordPerfect Thinks Small
  • Teleportation Arrives
  • Head-mounted Screen
  • Dictionary DA With A Twist
  • Reviews/23-Apr-90

Copyright 1990 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
Information: <info@tidbits.com> Comments: <editors@tidbits.com>


White Knight Blackened

A number of people on Usenet have complained about Freesoft's White Knight's inability to display more than 24 lines in VT100 emulation mode. The White Knight window itself can be sized to display more lines, but doing so produces unexpected results. VT100 emulation does have a standard of 24 lines, but many mainframe computers can be set to use a larger window, and terminal emulation packages should be able to deal with that. Zterm, a non-commercial emulator, will allow larger VT100 screens, though no one has mentioned the abilities of other popular terminal packages such as MicroPhone II and VersaTerm.

The consensus among users on Usenet seemed to be that Freesoft was correct in supporting the 24 line VT100 standard, but it would be useful if White Knight also supported larger screen sizes. If enough people request this feature from Freesoft, I'm sure Scott Watson will consider including it in a subsequent release of White Knight.

Information from:
Robert Minich -- minich@a.cs.okstate.edu
David I. Resnick -- dresnick@athena.mit.edu
Norman Goodger -- ngg@bridge2.ESD.3Com.COM


SuperDrives Stumble

Since the introduction of the SuperDrive (officially known as the FDHD for a while), users have had mixed feelings. On the one hand, no one minds having 1.4 megabytes of storage on a single floppy. On the other hand, some people have had troubles with the SuperDrives failing to read certain disks and others have simply been confused about the differences between the SuperDrives and the standard 800K floppy drives.

The SuperDrive requires the SWIM (Super-Wozniak Integrated Machine, by some accounts, though Super is sometimes replaced with Sanders) chip, which limits SuperDrive usage to newer computers. The most confusing model is the SE (and probably the IIx, though I have no experience with them), which had its 800K floppy drives replaced with SuperDrives. So pay attention if you are working with newer SEsthey have little stickers on them to indicate the drive size.

SuperDrive problems stem partly from the weaker magnetic fields that it uses in comparison to the old 800K drives. It is easier to lose a bit here and there with the weaker fields. In addition, the SWIM chip does much more work than the old IWM (Integrated Wozniak Machine) chip because the SuperDrives can read and write all Macintosh and ProDOS formatted disks as well as DOS formatted disks. It seems that the price for this power is an added level of flakiness.

Some people have complained that disks that won't format in a SuperDrive often do format in a PC-compatible drive. This happens because the Mac will not tolerate errors on the disk, while DOS will lock them out. The Mac does so because a disk with an error at formatting will never be predictably reliable, whereas DOS assumes that it can lock out any errors and use the rest of the disk without problems.

Usenet people have suggested ways of avoiding trouble. First, NEVER format a 1.4 megabyte disk (with the extra hole) as an 800K disk, either in the SuperDrive or in a normal 800K drive. When you put a disk into a SuperDrive, the drive looks for an extra hole in the disk. Based on what the drive detects (using an optical sensor), the drive switches into the appropriate mode. The drive's high density mode uses weaker magnetic fields and cannot overwrite the stronger fields on a disk formatted at 800K. Second, if disks are formatted once, but refuse to reformat, try erasing the bad floppies with a bulk tape eraser (or very strong magnet). Bulk tape erasers generate strong magnetic fields that will completely wipe out any data on the disk but may remove some soft errors as well. Third, use good disks. The el-cheapo disks may work fine, but I wouldn't trust my backups to them. I personally stick with labeled Sony disks, which can still be had fairly cheap. Check the ads in the back of MacWEEK.

Information from:
Adam C. Engst, TidBITS editor
Robert K. Shull -- rob@uokmax.ecn.uoknor.edu
Darik Datta -- datta@cpsc.ucalgary.ca
and others


Ashton-Tate Tries Again

Ashton-Tate's new versions of dBASE for the Mac and PC will share the look and feel of the DOS command line environment and will be 100% data and program compatible with each other. This is a switch from Ashton-Tate's earlier release for the Macintosh (dBASE Mac) which featured a Mac-like user interface, but which did not have data compatibility with the PC version. The PC version of dBASE IV 1.1 should ship soon, but the Mac version won't be out until sometime this summer.

The Mac version will have some linking capabilities with Ashton-Tate's word processor and spreadsheet, FullWrite Professional and Full Impact, in such a way that once a link is established, when data is changed in dBASE, the change is reflected in FullWrite or Full Impact as well. While such linking will be welcome, it is unlikely to compete with the tightly integrated applications introduced by ACIUS recently. ACIUS's applications can all be controlled by the 4th Dimension programming language.

Character-based interfaces have fared poorly in the Mac software market and despite the (potential) power behind dBASE IV, Mac users may stay away until dBASE looks like a Mac program. Ashton-Tate is working on a version of dBASE which is compatible with the PC and will add a Macintosh interface, but according to Marc Matoza, senior product manager at Ashton-Tate, this version won't be ready until at least early 1991.

In 1989, Ashton-Tate had 43 percent of the PC database market, down from 57 percent in 1987.

Ashton-Tate -- 213/329-8000
Related articles:
MacWEEK -- 16-Apr-90, Vol. 4, #16, pg. 1

Shacking Up With Tandy?

The Usenet rumor mill has been grinding the low-cost Mac into a fine flour. Evidently, some people have heard that Apple is striking a deal with Tandy, the computer name behind Radio Shack, either to build and market or just to build a low cost Mac. Few are happy with Tandy marketing a low cost Macintosh, but it was pointed out that DEC contracts with Tandy to build low cost computers, so perhaps a Tandy-built, Apple-marketed Mac is on its way.

Interestingly enough, other rumors have surfaced claiming that Apple is contracting with Toshiba to build a light (6-8 pound) Macintosh Portable to replace the freeweight that currently calls itself portable. Toshiba's PC portables are among the cream of the crop, so if this rumor is true, perhaps we will be seeing some very nice Mac portables from an Apple-Toshiba combination.

These two bits of information might indicate that Apple is stepping from its proprietary pedestal. Even if Apple does not actually license any part of the Macintosh to Tandy or Toshiba (Apple, Tandy, and ToshibaI like the ring of itAT&T), contracting out the manufacturing of the Mac is still a major step in that direction.

Information from:
Edward Joseph Bennett -- eb1z+@andrew.cmu.edu
Chris Silverberg -- macman@wpi.wpi.edu

Related articles:
InfoWorld -- 23-Apr-90, Vol. 12, #17, pg. 110

Speed Dreams

With all the hullabaloo about the Mac IIfx, there has been much discussion from jealous Plus and SE owners on how to bring their Macs up to speed and snuff. One such option mentioned is a $449 Dove 68030 upgrade for the Plus and SE, although the Dove board only gives about 25% speed increase. The main focus of Dove's upgrade is compatibility with System 7.0's virtual memory.

A speedier alternative is the Mercury upgrade with the optional accelerator card from Total Systems, which can speed up a Plus or SE by 200-300%. The Mercury upgrade also has even more options as well, so you can add a 68882 coprocessor, some SCSI enhancement for Pluses, large monitor (Apple, Samsung, and Radius) support, and a memory card which also provides a RAM cache card. Of course, by the time you stuff all that into your Mac, Apple will come out with an SE/40 upgrade path. The only price information from Usenet on this system is that the initial board will cost $500, the optional accelerator card will be $50, and the 32-bit RAM card will be $300. These prices are only good until April 30th, which is likely to be in the past by the time you read this. Sorry.

Total Systems -- 800/874-2288

Information from:
Christopher Lye -- clye@phoenix.princeton.edu


Cheap IBM Home Computer

Although IBM has not made an official announcement, a front page article in PC WEEK reveals IBM's plans for an August-release, low-cost home computer. This system, if released promptly, could steer potential buyers toward IBM if Apple cannot come through with its promise of a low-cost Macintosh. The new AT-compatible will feature an Intel 80286 10 MHz CPU (an approximate equivalent to the Mac SE or Portable in processing power) and street prices between $1000 and $1400, depending on the configuration. IBM will sell the machine at large retail stores. Equipped with DOS 4.0's graphic user interface and Microsoft Works, the computer will be ready to use out of the box.

Related articles:
PC WEEK -- 23-Apr-90, Vol. 7 #16, pg. 1
InfoWorld -- 02-Jul-90, Vol. 12 #27, pg. 1
PC WEEK -- 02-Jul-90, Vol. 7 #26, pg. 5

WordPerfect Thinks Small

In response to the burgeoning laptop market, WordPerfect is putting together a new word processor called LetterPerfect. LetterPerfect files will be 100% compatible with WordPerfect IBM 5.1 files (and theoretically with WordPerfect Mac 1.0.4 files, but we don't know exactly how that will work and WordPerfect Mac should be at release 2.0 before LetterPerfect comes out). LetterPerfect will not have as many features as WordPerfect, thus reducing its size and making it more practical for use with floppy-based laptops. Logically enough for a portable, mouse support will be one of the features to go.

Macintosh users with dreams of low-cost Mac Portables floating in their heads may well wonder if a version of LetterPerfect is slated for the Mac, but for now, we cannot find any information about a Macintosh version. If a Mac version of LetterPerfect were introduced, it would compete with the popular WriteNow and MacWrite II in the low-end of the word processor market.

Related articles:
InfoWorld -- 23-Apr-90, Vol. 12, #17, pg. 1
InfoWorld -- 18-Jun-90, Vol. 12, #25, pg. 6
PC WEEK -- 27-Aug-90, Vol. 7, #34 , pg. 15

Teleportation Arrives

Global Village Communications has introduced a unique modem that attaches to the Mac's ADB ports like a keyboard or mouse. The $225 TelePort modem does not require a power supply and communicates at 300, 1200, and 2400 baud with class 5 MNP. It is, of course, Hayes compatible.

The TelePort claims several advantages over conventional modems by its use of the ADB port. It doesn't tie up one of the serial ports, which are used for printers, modems, AppleTalk, and more unusual devices such as Farallon's MacRecorder. By omitting the power cable, the TelePort decreases the number of cables snaking around on the desktop, and comes up automatically configured when the computer is turned on. This is possible, said Leonard Lehmann, president of Global Village Communication, because ADB devices identify themselves to the computer and are assigned a unique address on startup.

Global Village Communication has come up with innovative software, including the TelePort/Address Book, which automatically identifies locations you call and records the duration, cost, and any notes regarding the call. TelePort/FAX allows the TelePort to send any Macintosh document to a fax machine with automatic cover sheets. TelePort/FAX cannot receive faxes, but it does send in the background.

One liability for the TelePort in the future is that the ADB ports operate at a slower speed than the serial ports. This limitation may prevent Global Village Communication from increasing the baud rate of the TelePort above 2400 baud.

Global Village Communication -- 415/329-0700
Related articles:
InfoWorld -- 23-Apr-90, Vol. 12, #17, pg. 28

Head-mounted Screen

A new screen from Reflection Technology has the physical dimensions of a sugar packet, but the viewing dimensions of a 12" monitor. The screen uses a headband to attach to your head and extends a few inches out from the headband in front of one of your eyes. When wearing the screen, an image of the screen floats visibly in space in front of you, allowing you to view the display, but insuring that nobody else can see it. Called the Private Eye, the screen has possible uses whenever a standard monitor is inconvenient or inappropriate. For the $795 list price, you get the CGA monochrome monitor, a 5 foot cable to attach the Private Eye to your computer, the headband, and a CGA adapter board. CGA screens have a lower resolution than 9" Macintosh screens, so a Mac version may not be possible in the near future.

Reflection Technology -- 617/890-5905
Related articles:
InfoWorld -- 23-Apr-90, Vol. 12, #17, pg. 19

Dictionary DA With A Twist

Microlytics Inc. has come up with the perfect desk accessory for folks who know perfectly well what they want to say but cannot think of the word. The dictionary allows you to type in definitions and then tells you what words you might be thinking of. InfoWorld reporter Yvonne Lee gave an example of a user entering the words "doctor" and "bones" to obtain the result "orthopedic surgeon." The desk accessory, called Inside Information, includes unusual ways to think about word relationships, allowing words to be viewed as members of seven main categories and numerous sub-categories, using horizontal boxing, outline, or branching tree formats. The $119 program includes 65,000 entries and is based upon Word Nerd technology from Xerox. The online system will be converted to paper form and published as a book from Random House in 1991.

Microlytics, Inc. -- 716/248-9150
Related articles:
InfoWorld -- 23-Apr-90, Vol. 12, #17, pg. 35
MacWEEK -- 16-Apr-90, Vol. 4, #16, pg. 12

Reviews/23-Apr-90

  • MacWEEK
    • Digitizing Tablets, pg. 45
      • CalComp Wiz
      • Kurta IS/ADB
      • SummaSketch II
      • Wacom SD-420L
    • Finder extensions, pg. 51
      • PowerStation 2.5.2
      • On Cue 1.3
      • DiskTop 4.0
      • DiskTools II 1.02
    • Hard disk password protection, pg. 51
      • Screen Locker
      • KeyLock
    • DaynaNet, pg. 55
    • DeltaGraph 1.5, pg. 57
  • InfoWorld
    • Theorist, pg. 78
    • Fontographer, pg. 78
    • Radius Pivot Monitor, pg. 86
  • PC WEEK
    • Hand-held scanners (not Mac specific), pg. 83
      • The Complete Half-Page Scanner/400
      • Handy Scanner 3000 Plus
      • A4Scan AS 8000P
      • SkyScan D-120
      • GS4500 GeniScan
      • ScanMan Plus
      • Mars 105
      • Niscan OCR
    • Macintosh spreadsheets, pg. 88
      • MacCalc 1.2d
      • Trapeze 2.1
      • Wingz 1.1a
      • Excel 2.2

References:

  • MacWEEK -- 24-Apr-90, Vol. 4, #16
  • InfoWorld -- 23-Apr-90, Vol. 12, #17
  • PC WEEK -- 23-Apr-90, Vol. 7, #16

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