close this bookTidBITS#19   19900903
View the documentFor The MathWriter In You
View the documentNetwork Neatness
View the documentClone Bits
View the documentPatent Shock
View the documentGold Brick
View the documentReviews/03-Sep-90
View the documentFoot Notes


  • For The MathWriter In You
  • Network Neatness
  • Clone Bits
  • Patent Shock
  • Gold Brick
  • Reviews/03-Sep-90

Copyright 1990 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
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For The MathWriter In You

The wonderful world of word processing has been becoming even more golden in the recent past. I do a great deal of writing (at least 15K each week for TidBITS alone) so I'm sensitive to new features and new programs that will make the writing process easier and smoother yet. I thought that Nisus 2.03 was pretty cool and a lot of fun and version 3.0 seems to be even better yet. However, looming on the October horizon is WordPerfect 2.0. I've used the older versions of WordPerfect and thought they were vaguely mediocre, though not as obnoxious as Word 4.0. The demos I've seen of WordPerfect 2.0 look good, though not quite as good as Nisus for the sort of writing I do.

More interesting because of the local slant and the demo I just saw is MathWriter 2.0. "MathWriter," you say, trying to think of what it does. "Isn't that one of those equation programs?" Well, yes, it used to be. Professor Robert Cooke and Ted Sobel, who did almost all the programming over the last three years, have come out with a word processor that rivals the other high-end ones in raw power. I can't even attempt a review of the program, which will hopefully finish beta testing in October and start shipping from Brooks/Cole. However, I'll try to touch on some of the high points for those of you who like word processors and those who do a lot of equation editing.

First of all, everything in MathWriter, be it normal text, footnotes, equations, or sidebars, can be edited in the main window. The equation editing looks like it is about as streamlined as possible, considering the immense number of possible symbols and equation types and multiple sub/superscripts you can use. I personally haven't had reason to write any equations since high school calculus, but there were a number of other great features. MathWriter has a full revision control feature, which when activated keeps track of all the changes and deletions you make in a document. Rather than just show where there were changes, MathWriter actually displays them in strikeout style. You can of course get rid of all the things you deleted before or decide to use the original words in place of the new ones. MathWriter doesn't have a glossary because it has libraries instead, in which you can store text, graphics, or equations for later use, which is especially handy with complicated equations. Like FullWrite I guess (which is one of the few word processors I've never really used), MathWriter can attach Post-It-like notes to various bits of text for editorial notes and their ilk. The final neat feature blows the socks off most page previews. MathWriter will display resizable thumbnails - as many as it can fit on the screen at one time at whatever size you choose.

Like many other programs these days, MathWriter is big. It barely fits on a floppy disk. Cooke and Sobel had to stop adding features somewhere so they could get the program out the door, so they decided to stop with a Module feature. Any appropriately-written module can be dropped into the same folder as MathWriter and have its code automatically loaded and available seamlessly within MathWriter. Currently the only module being worked on is something called ExamBuilder, which stores test questions in a database format so you can easily make a test by asking for five questions on subject A and 7 questions on subject B arranged in a random order. Those questions will be then dropped into the MathWriter document for final formatting and printing. The Module feature is something other companies would do well to emulate so as to allow users to pick and choose what features they want. MathWriter probably won't induce me to switch from Nisus, but if you do any equation editing at all, nothing that I've ever seen is even in the same league as MathWriter 2.0.

Cooke Publications -- 607/255-2480

Information from:
Ted Sobel -- MathWriter programmer
Robert Cooke -- MathWriter designer
Adam C. Engst -- TidBITS Editor

Related articles:
Wait until October when the normal press is notified.

Network Neatness

Networking with wires has always been something of a hassle, because the first thing to check whenever there are problems is whether or not someone has kicked out a connector. A couple of introductions recently might cut back on the troubles network managers have with their wiring. Most recently, NCR introduced WaveLAN, which is can transmit data at up to 2 megabits/second over a specific radio frequency set aside by the FCC. Its range is 250 to 1000 feet and works best in open environments as the radio waves can be stopped by thick walls of concrete or metal. Other companies market wireless networks which either use radio waves or the electrical wiring of a building, but so far all of them have been relatively slow, much slower than the relatively poky AppleTalk (230 kilobits/second). Even the 2 megabits/second WaveLAN isn't capable of running at EtherNet's 10 megabits/second over twisted pair cabling. Unfortunately none of these companies seem to have expressed any interest in making the changes to their products to allow them to be used with Macs, which is odd in the sense that Macs are so easy to network that many more people would set up small networks if there was no need to install and maintain wires. Like us, once we get a second Mac. Humph.

The best thing we've seen in the Mac world is Photolink from Photonics Corp. Basically, Photolink uses infrared light to transfer data at full AppleTalk speeds. All you have to do is aim the devices at a common point on the ceiling and plug them into the appropriate ports. The only real problem with them seems to be that they can easily be stolen since they aren't locked down. The Photolinks are also cost effective, because they run about $150 per unit, which isn't all that much more than installing new twisted pair wiring.

Recently, Photonics addressed another problem by introducing a version of Photolink that works between buildings - just aim the two units at each other through a window. Building-to-Building Photolink has a range of 600 feet and lists for $3990 per pair. Now if only Photonics would come out with some sort of wide-area wireless networking device. The theory is easy; the problem is that you need an FCC license to run a transmitter at the power required if you use radio waves or microwaves.

NCR -- 513/445-5000
Carrier Current Technologies -- 800/222-0377
Photonics -- 408/370-3033

Information from:
News Notebook 1.10
Adam C. Engst -- TidBITS Editor

Related articles:
InfoWorld -- 03-Sep-90, Vol. 12, #36, pg. 25
PC WEEK -- 03-Sep-90, Vol. 7, #35 , pg. 53

Clone Bits

Even though MacWEEK failed to show up in our mailbox this week, there were still a number of interesting little bits of information from other sources. These don't warrant individual articles, so they'll have to suffer with a paragraph each.

Hewlett-Packard just introduced two new printers, the DeskJet 500 ($729) and the LaserJet IIID ($3595). The DeskJet 500 replaces the DeskJet and DeskJet+, uses non-water soluble ink, and has more internal fonts. Upgrades are available for DeskJet and DeskJet+ owners, and later this year the non-water soluble ink will be available for the entire line, including the DeskWriter. The LaserJet IIID will replace the IID and combine the IID's duplex printing abilities (both sides of the page at once) and paper handling abilities with the III's Resolution Enhancement Technology, which increases the effective resolution by varying dot size. It will work with the HP AppleTalk interface and the PostScript cartridge, although significantly more memory is required for duplex PostScript printing (and may not work all that well even then, due to limitations in PostScript).

Samna Corp., whose Ami and Ami Professional word processors have been rated highly in comparison to other Windows word processors, introduced a Windows-based hypertext application called SmarText. SmarText attempts to solve one of the main problems facing hypertext by automatically creating links, indices, and outlines. These links and indices are only as good as the rules and keywords entered by the user, but the fact that they can be automatically generated saves incredible amounts of time over manual linking. Two versions will be available, SmarText Builder for editing at $495 and SmarText Reader for $99. Now if only they would port it to the Mac...

Intel's Personal Computer Enhancement Operation recently introduced a new 9600 baud, V.32, V.42bis, V.42 error correction, MNP 1-5 modem (got all that?). The neat part is that for all those various protocols and compression schemes and error correction algorithms and a 5 year warranty, the price is only $799. The Mac version is only $20 more and includes QuickLink II. The price of high speed communications is finally closing in on the reasonable zone. The closest competition is the U.S. Robotics Courier V.32, which lists for under $995 and includes everything the Intel modem has except (apparently) the V.42 compliance.

Hewlett-Packard -- 800/752-0900
Samna Corp. -- 800/831-9679
Intel PCEO -- 800/538-3373
U.S. Robotics -- 800/342-5877

Information from:
Adam C. Engst -- TidBITS Editor
Tonya Byard -- TidBITS Editor
HP propaganda
U.S. Robotics propaganda

Related articles:
PC WEEK -- 03-Sep-90, Vol. 7, #35 , pg. 5
PC WEEK -- 03-Sep-90, Vol. 7, #35 , pg. 11
InfoWorld -- 03-Sep-90, Vol. 12, #36, pg. 17
PC WEEK -- 03-Sep-90, Vol. 7, #35 , pg. 53

Patent Shock

The US Patent Office just got around to awarding a patent to Gilbert Hyatt that he applied for in late 1970. This would not have been a big deal if he had invented a better mousetrap, but instead he claims to have invented the first microprocessor. In a less litigious society that wouldn't mean much, but if Hyatt's patent does indeed apply to all microprocessors ever shipped, (hundreds of millions, all told) he could conceivably sue every chip maker for royalties. Of course, if he asks for more than a minuscule amount, he would be facing some of the highest paid legal counsel in the universe.

There's no telling what Hyatt will do, but it seems that he should accept mention in the next edition of the textbooks and leave well enough alone. The electronics industry has enough trouble without having to fight more legal battle over who managed to get to the patent office first. More later when we hear what happens.

Information from:
Adam C. Engst -- TidBITS Editor

Related articles:
InfoWorld -- 03-Sep-90, Vol. 12, #36, pg. 1
PC WEEK -- 03-Sep-90, Vol. 7, #35 , pg. 1

Gold Brick

The first of the video game decks to attain massive popularity was the Atari VCS, but it died down and was replaced several years later by the Nintendo Entertainment System. I've never seen one of these decks, but even the videotape rental stores around here now carry Nintendo games, so I suspect their popularity may surpass that of the Atari VCS. "Thanks for the history, but why does he care?" you ask, quite reasonably.

Well, a company called Transfinite Systems has introduced a little ADB device called Gold Brick, which provides translations between a Mac or Apple IIgs and various Nintendo-compatible controller devices. (Luckily, Transfinite Systems sent us the Gold Brick manual, because the concept of a controller interface is not one that is inherently obvious.) Nintendo-controller compatibility is an interesting ability, because some Nintendo games support 2D and 3D motion using a number of different controllers. Again, I haven't seen any of these devices, but Gold Brick can translate controller input from the Brderbund UForce[tm], the Nintendo Power Pad[tm], the Enteractive[tm] Roll&Rocker[tm] and the Mattel Power Glove[tm]. (Game companies are very serious about trademarks, as you can tell.) Of these, the only one I know anything about is the Power Glove, because it is a commercial version of the Data Glove used in the virtual reality experiments. With the Data Glove (or presumably the Power Glove), you can move virtual objects around in a virtual space (viewed through a head-mounted display system).

Transfinite Systems has chosen an interesting method of marketing Gold Brick. By designing it to work with inexpensive and commercially available controllers, Transfinite is using an existing market to create a potentially new one. The first applications of Gold Brick will no doubt be ports of Nintendo games or even communications between the game deck and the Mac through Gold Brick. However, after some games have broken the ground, we expect that drivers for the 3D graphics applications like Swivel 3D and Super 3D will be written. Rotating a 3D solid with a Power Glove should be a lot easier than doing the same thing with the mouse. After that, our imagination is the limit for new methods of controlling virtual objects. Gold Brick's sub-title is "The Cyberspace Interface," which hints at the cyberspace environment of William Gibson's "Neuromancer" and "Mona Lisa Overdrive." For standard applications of today, though, the user can specify 2D motions or keystrokes for the Gold Brick translations, allowing people to explore and design alternate forms of interface manipulators. One way or another, Gold Brick sounds like it might help introduce the next generation of controllers.

Transfinite Systems -- 617/969-9570

Information from:
Transfinite Systems press release
Gold Brick propaganda sheet
Gold Brick manual
Adam C. Engst -- TidBITS Editor


  • InfoWorld
    • Data Visualization Programs, pg. 69
      • Spyglass Transform
      • Spyglass View
      • Spyglass Dicer
    • Diconix 150, pg. 69
    • Architrion II, pg. 91
  • MacUser
    • MultiClip 2.0, pg. 48
    • FastLabel 2.0 , pg. 48
    • Bridge, pg. 48
    • Hyper Toolkit, pg. 48
    • INITPicker, pg. 49
    • miniWriter 1.6, pg. 49
    • HyperSpeller, pg. 49
    • Reunion, pg. 49
    • Media Letter, pg. 50
    • 3-Meg Static RAM Card, pg. 50
    • Number Munchers, pg. 50
    • Dietician, pg. 50
    • File Director (beta), pg. 50
    • Audiomedia, pg. 55
    • MORE 3.0 5, pg. 57
    • RasterOps Video ColorBoard 364, pg. 59
    • Spyglass Transform & Spyglass View, pg. 72
    • MacDraft, pg. 74
    • Games, pg. 80
      • Welltris
      • Mission Starlight
      • Sky Shadow
    • C*A*T III, pg. 83
    • PostScript printers, pg. 89
      • (too many to list)
    • Grey-Scale Monitors, pg. 150
      • CalComp Drawing Card GrayVision
      • Radius Two Page Display/21
      • RasterOps ClearVue/GS
      • SuperMac 19" Platinum Display
    • Color-Retouching Programs, pg. 172
      • PhotoMac 1.5
      • PhotoShop
      • ColorStudio


  • InfoWorld -- 03-Sep-90, Vol. 12, #36
  • PC WEEK -- 03-Sep-90, Vol. 7, #35
  • MacUser -- Oct-90

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