This is the week of new software! Apple releases QuickTime VR to the world for free, plus Mark Anbinder takes a look at both WordPerfect 3.5 and a new release of SoftArc's FirstClass Client. Adam reports on the highlights of last week's Mactivity conference in San Jose, plus info on new version of Apple's CD-ROM software, new incomprehensibly numbered Performa models, and a historical follow-up to Tonya's two-part review of FullWrite 2.0.
This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
Open Mouth, Insert MacPPP -- Our short deadline bit us last week. We published Orren Merton's note about Open Transport problems in which he noted originally that MacPPP 2.1.1SD included some fixes for problems that MacPPP has with Open Transport. Unfortunately, as we were finishing the issue, MacPPP 2.2.0 came out, claiming to include all the fixes to MacPPP 2.0.1. Because of that claim, it inappropriately replaced MacPPP 2.1.1SD in the Info-Mac Archive, leaving us with no working URL for MacPPP 2.1.1SD and an incorrect impression of MacPPP 2.2.0 as well, since as Steve Dagley (the SD in MacPPP 2.1.1SD) said, the 2.2.0 version did not actually include the Open Transport fixes. Sorry for the confusion, and Open Transport users can get MacPPP 2.1.1SD at the URL below. We're still trying to get a handle on the versions of MacPPP and find out the real story. [ACE]
Apple CD-ROM Software for Quad-Speed Drives -- Apple released version 5.1.1 of its CD-ROM software last week, primarily to support its new AppleCD 600e quad-speed CD-ROM drive. It also includes support for multisession, CD Plus, and Enhanced CD formats. Weighing in at about 600K binhexed, version 5.1.1 requires System 7.1 or later and works fine with earlier Apple CD-ROM drives. If you have problems installing this software on System 7.1 for use with an internal AppleCD 300, Apple recommends zapping your PRAM (press Command-Option-P-R when restarting your computer), then re-installing. [GD]
Open Transport vs. QuarkXPress -- I've heard reports of two conflicts between Open Transport 1.0 (shipped only on the Power Mac 9500s) and QuarkXPress. If you have an XTension installed that receives the XT_NETRECEIVE opcode, QuarkXPress will hang on launch. I doubt there's any easy way to determine if you have such an XTension loaded other than by empirical testing. Apparently, Open Transport 1.0.1 fixes the problem. Even with Open Transport 1.0.1, if you have either the printer port or the modem port chosen as your network connection in the AppleTalk control panel, QuarkXPress will hang on launch if any XTensions that use network serial copy protection are installed. [ACE]
More Performas Introduced -- Last week Apple announced a series of new Performa computers, including the 5200-series and 6200-series (each based on the PowerPC 603 processor), the Performa 640CD DOS Compatible, new 630- and 6100-series machines, and the MPEG (Motion Picture Experts Group) Media System (basically an MPEG add-in board for the 630-, 5200-, and 6200-series systems that ships with a set of MPEG CD-ROM titles). The new systems range in price from about $1,600 to $3,000; the MPEG Media System is about $300. [GD]
by Mark Anbinder, News Editor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Novell announced today that Internet publishing and editing capabilities, better automation tools, and a new talkative bent will highlight the planned August release of WordPerfect 3.5 for Macintosh. The package will carry a suggested retail price of $189 for floppy or CD-ROM version, and upgrades will be available next month for $89.
The new Mac version of WordPerfect won't quite put buyers on the Internet, but it will include a copy of Netscape Navigator and built-in HTML exporting capabilities. The WYSIWYG Web-building feature should allow users to generate attractive, if straightforward, Web pages without much fuss.
More innovative is a new "Make It Fit" feature, which will automatically adjust a document's margins, font size, line height, and spacing to force the text to fit or fill a given number of pages. An Easy Envelope function and 85 new document templates will also make quick-and-easy document publishing simpler for those without the time or talent for their own creative design.
We're not sure it's crucial to most users, but the new version's integration of Apple's PlainTalk technology will allow WordPerfect to speak all or part of a document's text, "for easy proofreading, or to bring presentations or demonstrations to life." Even if we don't expect to use PlainTalk for the next live demo, we applaud Novell's thoroughness in implementing Mac OS technology.
Look for a crowded booth in Boston next month, but hope for a more intriguing demo focus than HTML editing and talking Macs.
by Mark Anbinder, News Editor <email@example.com>
On the heels of last week's Mactivity conference, which showcased Macintosh connectivity technology, Ontario-based SoftArc, Inc. released version 2.7 of its FirstClass Client software for Macintosh. The new version of its email and group conferencing client software doesn't offer significant changes in functionality, but offers native PowerPC performance.
SoftArc is now shipping three separate flavors of the FirstClass Client to satisfy all tastes. A version for 68K Macintosh systems still works in emulation on Power Macs; a pure native PowerPC version works only on Power Macs. The third, a fat binary, is about a third again as large as the others, but contains all the code necessary to run to best advantage on either 68K or PowerPC technology.
The client software updates are available at no cost. All three are available from SoftArc Online, the company's own FirstClass support headquarters, which can be reached on the Internet via FirstClass itself at 188.8.131.52 (port 3004) or by modem at 905-415-7070. They're also available via anonymous FTP; pointers are on the Web at:
For assistance connecting to SoftArc Online over the Internet, look at Ed Leslie's page at:
SoftArc says version 2.7 fixes a few minor bugs that most users would never notice. The software also now includes support for over 500 different modem types. Readers without Power Macintosh systems or with already-supported modems may not want to bother downloading the software via a long-distance modem connection, but those with other downloading options will at least get to enjoy the snazzy new globe graphics for their trouble. (If you have the disk space, we recommend downloading and installing the fat binary version. You'll always be prepared for an upgrade, and you'll always have the right version to give a friend.) It's worth noting that the main bottleneck in the performance of the FirstClass Client is usually your modem or network connection; using a Power Mac-native version of the FirstClass Client isn't going to make either of those things any faster.
Testers have reported that the new client software works with Apple's Open Transport networking technology (so far shipping only with the Power Macintosh 9500 systems), though SoftArc hasn't claimed official compatibility. The FirstClass Server software, still at version 2.6, has no PowerPC native version, though SoftArc has said they plan such a release. Meanwhile, FirstClass Server 2.6 (available as a free upgrade to registered users, only on SoftArc Online) supports the Modern Memory Manager on Power Mac systems, which gives it a slight performance advantage over version 2.5. (Until more of the I/O portion of the Mac OS is native and Open Transport is available for general use, the FirstClass Server would gain little from native code.)
SoftArc has also mentioned plans for an upcoming Intel-based server package and a Windows client that offers the styled text capabilities of its Macintosh cousin.
SoftArc -- 905/415-7000 -- 905/415-7151 (fax) -- <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Ed Leslie <email@example.com>
by Tonya Engst
A few people wrote in to correct what I wrote about FullWrite's beginnings in TidBITS-284.
Leonard Rosenthol <firstname.lastname@example.org> said, "FullWrite started life at Ann Arbor Softworks, the same company that was the first to try (and succeed) in competing with MacPaint with their wonderful FullPaint product. The biggest history note for FullWrite during the Ann Arbor Softworks days was that they started advertising it a bit too early, and it was, for the longest time, the longest vaporware product around - close to two years!"
Roy Leban <email@example.com> helpfully filled in some details, saying that the FullWrite project began at Ann Arbor Softworks (abbreviated as A2S) in April of 1986, and the public first knew that something was up in January of 1987, when A2S gave demos at MacWorld Expo. Although A2S thought they could ship FullWrite by April of 1987, by MacWorld Expo in January of 1988, they weren't quite shipping, though they did give away 10,000 beta copies at the Expo. About a month later, Ashton-Tate acquired A2S, and in April of 1988, FullWrite finally shipped.
Roy also responded to a few questions that people had asked me about FullWrite, saying that - unfortunately - Mastersoft's DocuComp does not work with FullWrite documents (DocuComp compares two versions of a document and identifies any differences between the two). Also, neither PageMaker nor QuarkXPress come with FullWrite filters. It's up to Adobe or Quark to decide that they want to include a filter, and I suspect that customer pressure would help in this regard.
Mastersoft -- 602/948-4888 -- 800/624-6107 -- 602/948-8261 (fax)
by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I attended Mactivity in San Jose last week and came away with a good feeling about the Mac's role in networks and specifically in the Internet. Desktop publishing certainly gets credit as the application that put the Macintosh on the map, but in many ways, the Mac's networking capabilities are more impressive. They've been present in every Mac since the beginning, and with the advent of System 7's File Sharing, have been a part of everyday life for even the smallest of Mac networks.
I hadn't been to Mactivity before, but I got the impression that in many ways the ascendancy of the Internet has given new life to the conference. A special Mactivity/Web mini-conference preceded the main show, and on the exhibition floor, roughly a third of the booths were showing Internet-related products. The sessions, even excluding all the Mactivity/Web sessions, had about the same ratio of Internet material to straight networking information.
But none of this should surprise anyone. Networking has long been a heavy-duty niche field that only interested in the folks whose job it is to set up and keep the networks running. Users don't care about the network topology or wiring scheme as long as they can share files and print to networked laser printers. However, users do increasingly care about using that same network to get onto the Internet to do things that are of direct relevance to their daily lives. Suddenly the network has reached out to the world.
Anyway, on to a few products that caught my eye.
Delphic Software was present and showing their AL*I Internet Server, which will garner as much attention for its deucedly difficult-to-type name (and I have no idea how to say it) as for the numerous Internet services it can provide. Due out before the end of the year, the AL*I Internet server includes a graphical configuration interface for the Web, Gopher, FTP, NNTP (Net News Transport Protocol, for Usenet news), SMTP (Simple Mail Transport Protocol, for sending and receiving email), POP3 (Post Office Protocol, for storing mail for POP clients like Eudora), UDP Time Server (for synchronizing clocks), DNS (domain name server, for translating names to IP numbers), and finally a BootP server. This functionality won't come cheap, though, with packages containing various module sets starting at $995 and ranging up to $1,995 for the whole shooting match.
Delphic Software -- <email@example.com>
Aiwa's DAT tape AutoLoader (marketed by CORE International) certainly won the best of show in terms of pure attention-getting, both in terms of its physical operation and its raw storage capacity. The device was on display at the Dantz Development booth - not surprising given that Dantz's Retrospect Remote backup software basically owns the backup market and is seemingly bundled with every DAT drive in existence. The AutoLoader uses a cartridge containing 17 DAT tapes, and a mesmerizing loader zips up and down the cartridge, moving tapes in and out of the DAT drive mechanism itself (another model contains two DAT drives for faster performance). There's something compelling about computer equipment that moves in interesting ways - perhaps that's the reason for all the movie scenes of tape drives spinning. Even more compelling was when Lars Holm of Dantz told me that you could put 272 GB on single, easily removed cartridge (ease of removal is important for fostering good off-site backup habits). To note that 272 GB is a lot of data is pure understatement. And although the prices sound steep, at $6,995 for the single drive model and $8,995 for the double drive model, just compare the costs of 17 separate DAT drives and a network slave to feed them tapes all night.
CORE International -- 407/997-6055 -- 407/997-9009 (fax)
Dantz Development -- 800/225-4880 -- <firstname.lastname@example.org>
ResNova Software has embraced the Web wholeheartedly with their NovaServer 4.0 product. Originally a BBS with a graphical interface provided by the NovaTerm client, NovaServer has evolved into a interesting amalgam of Internet and BBS. All of the old features are still present (email, message forums, chats and conferences, and file libraries), but some have a new twist. All messages are stored internally as HTML, and users can include HTML 2.0 code directly in messages, along with URLs that point either locally or out to the Web. The NovaTerm client can work with an optional Web add-on to enable users to browse the Web, and the client itself uses HTTP (HyperText Transport Protocol) for file transfers. Gateways for SMTP, NNTP, UUCP, and AppleSearch are also available. ResNova has addressed the current paranoia over inappropriate content on the Web by providing access controls and filtering of outgoing URL requests through a list of approved or prohibited sites or pages. (This concern is a bit less misplaced in the BBS world, where some BBS sysops have been jailed for allowing pornographic materials on their systems.) NovaServer is Power Mac-native, requires the Thread Manager on systems prior to System 7.5, and is scalable using multiple servers. Prices vary widely depending on the configurations.
ResNova Software -- 714/379-9004 -- <email@example.com>
StarNine gave me a quick demo of some of the more interesting capabilities of ListSTAR, their new mailing list manager and mailbot program (see TidBITS-258 for a brief bit on eMOD, an earlier incarnation of ListSTAR). Several features stood out. First, ListSTAR features a rule-based interface that appeared to be heavily wired for use with AppleScript, although you could also use Frontier. This means you can extend ListSTAR's capabilities in interesting ways, and StarNine was showing some of those, such as a form in WebSTAR that provided an easy interface for adding or deleting oneself from a mailing list run by ListSTAR. Simple, but effective (you wouldn't believe how many personal requests I get every day, asking to be added to the TidBITS list - I couldn't live without QuicKeys). In the future, think about more intersections between the Web and email, so perhaps mailing lists could be both centralized on the Web (which makes for more coherent management) and distributed via email (since people are lousy about continually visiting the same Web site over and over again).
Perhaps most interesting about ListSTAR for many Mac users, is that it comes in two flavors, SMTP and POP. The SMTP version of ListSTAR is a full-fledged SMTP (and POP) server in its own right, and would replace MailShare entirely on Mac mail servers, and of course requires a permanent Internet connection. (MailShare is now Apple Internet Mail Server, as the corporate naming weenies at Apple have trippingly dubbed it - at least they didn't go for "Apple Internet Server Solution for Electronic Mail.") However, the POP version of ListSTAR works like any other POP client such as Eudora, and only checks for new mail when you tell it to. Thus, any user who connects to the Internet via a modem and PPP, SLIP, or ARA could easily run a full-fledged mailing list. Performance is worse with the POP version, but that's a small price to pay for not needing a direct Internet connection. I feel that bringing this capability to ordinary Internet users without expensive permanent connections is tremendously important, since it opens up the Internet to an entire group of people who were previously prevented from helping improve the community by providing mailbots and mailing lists on specific topics. On the other hand, ListSTAR's complex configuration requirements may make it inappropriate for users with simple mail server needs.
StarNine Technologies, Inc. -- 800/525-2580 -- 510/649-4949
by Geoff Duncan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Some readers may remember a review of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Interactive Technical Manual from Simon & Schuster which appeared in TidBITS-250, almost nine months ago. That CD-ROM was launched with some fanfare as the "first" product to use Apple's new QuickTime VR technology; since then, however, there hasn't been much visible motion, aside from demonstrations at trade shows, and Mac aficionados have been waiting impatiently for QuickTime VR to enter the mainstream. Where was QuickTime VR? When was Apple going to unleash this thing for real?
The wait appears to be over. Last week Apple unveiled a free QuickTime VR player and inaugurated a new Web site full of sample movies and technical info on QuickTime VR. Moreover, Apple seems to be targeting QuickTime VR solidly at the Internet audience. Though the new QTVR site is still a little incomplete, it's a promising start on what will hopefully be an exciting journey.
The QTVR Player -- The core of Apple's free offering is the QTVR Player, an application that lets a user open and navigate through both QuickTime VR movies and normal QuickTime movies. Be sure to read Apple's licence agreement before downloading and using the software.
The player is available in two packages, one containing just the player application and a small sample QTVR movie (first URL, about 400K) and - available only through 22-Jul-95 - a version containing both the player application and an installation of QuickTime 2.0, normally only available with System 7.5, from Apple directly, or with other commercial multimedia programs (second URL, abut 1.4 MB). The QTVR Player (and sample files) are also available on eWorld.
Apple is clearly targeting the QTVR Player at the Web community, including instructions for setting it up as a Netscape helper application. The idea is to set up the QTVR Player to handle all QuickTime movies for your Web browser. Similar steps work with MacWeb and should be applicable to other Web browsers.
Once you have the player installed, navigating through a QuickTime VR movie is surprisingly easy. When you open a QTVR movie, you're presented with a window that looks just like any other document window containing a picture: no QuickTime controller hangs off the bottom of the image, and there are no obvious controls to manipulate the movie. To get around, simply click and hold the mouse button in the displayed image, then drag in the direction you want to go. Suddenly the displayed scene is moving, as the image in the window pans in the direction you choose to go. If your finger gets tired of pointing with the mouse, your keyboard's arrow keys also navigate through the movie, and (surprisingly) if you press the Option key, the window will "zoom in" the display in real time, although it gets chunkier as you reach the resolution limits of the movie. Press Control to zoom you back out.
The QTVR Player lets you play movies at double size and even at full-screen, and has an option for "high quality refresh" which apparently allows the player to redraw the currently-displayed image at better resolution if you let it sit still a moment. The effect is noticeable (and significantly improves the display quality) at double-size and full-screen. The overall performance of the player application seems quite satisfactory with the QTVR movie on a local hard disk, with extremely fast response on my Quadra 650 and respectable and certainly usable performance on an LC III I had the chance to use. While the Player application is not without bugs (including a particularly ugly one involving 16-bit playback on a multiple-monitor configuration), it does seem reasonably stable.
VR Movies & Objects -- QTVR movies usually consist of "nodes" and perhaps "objects." A "node" is a place where the viewer can virtually stand an inspect a scene - it's usually the center of a room, the top of a staircase, or a similar location with an interesting view. Movies can be single-node or multi-node, and viewers can move back and forth between nodes within the movie. For example, the QTVR move of the bridge set of the U.S.S. Enterprise in Simon & Schuster's Interactive Technical Manual contains more than half a dozen nodes, including one at the turbolift entrance, one at the engineering station, and (of course) one from the captain's chair. When another node is in sight, the mouse cursor changes to a forward-pointing arrow, and a single click takes you to the new node. Apple has made several multi-node QTVR movies available on its site, including an interior of the House of Blues, the Tuesday Night Music Club, and the White House.
QTVR movies can also contain objects. Instead of the scene moving around the viewer, the user and turn and manipulate an animated object in three dimensions. The Star Trek Technical Manual includes a Klingon knife and a continually-blinking tricorder as QTVR objects. An obvious application of this technique would be in a virtual museum, where works of art could be viewed from a variety of angles and turned in space. Other applications spring to mind in the fields of education, engineering, and 3-D rendering, by letting people see how objects, components, and parts work and move together. I know if I'd had QTVR demonstrations of crystal lattice structures in my high school chemistry class, I'd have been a much happier person. Also, a QTVR simulation of a thunderstorm or Jupiter's moons could be infinitely intriguing.
Lights, Camera, Action -- With all this functionality, you might imagine that making a QTVR movie is a little more complicated than capturing a movie from a VCR or QuickCam, and you'd be right. Apple is in the process of putting a QTVR white paper up on its Web server that describes the technology and QTVR development process, and a good overview article on creating QuickTime VR movies appeared in the July 1995 issue of Macworld. To over-generalize, QTVR movies are stitched together from a series of still images, usually 12 or 16 for a full 360-degree shot or node. For live scenes, capturing these images can be a tricky process, involving specialized camera mountings and careful picture-taking. (I hear from one photographer who's done a QTVR shoot that doing outdoor shots is particularly difficult due to shifts in lighting.) From 3-D rendering programs, generating the images to be stitched together can be a more precise process, although still time-consuming.
Once you have your images, movies are then "authored" to include pointers to embedded QTVR objects (if any) and pointers to other nodes that are adjacent to the current scene. Presently, QTVR development and authoring tools (including XCMDs for use in HyperCard and Director) are available only from Apple, are not very intuitive, and require a fast Mac and a lot of RAM. Apple does host courses on incorporating QTVR technology into other applications, but QTVR development resources are expensive and hard to come by. Still, that was also the case when QuickTime itself debuted; as time goes on, users can probably expect development tools to become cheaper and easier to use, and applications (especially those that do 3-D rendering) will should begin to support QTVR natively.
In Summation -- If you've got a Web connection and time to download a few hundred kilobytes of movies, go nuts! Once you see QuickTime VR, you'll see why people are excited about it. However, it remains to be seen whether QuickTime VR will gather the developer and application support necessary for it to become more than an expensive toy for people with high-end machines and good photographic equipment. Apple is billing QTVR as "virtual reality for the rest of us," but right now it's only "virtual reality playback for the rest of us." Nonetheless, the potential excites me.
Simon & Schuster Interactive -- 212/698-7000 -- 212/698-7555 (fax)
Non-profit, non-commercial publications and Web sites may reprint or link to articles if full credit is given. Others please contact us. We do not guarantee accuracy of articles. Caveat lector. Publication, product, and company names may be registered trademarks of their companies. TidBITS ISSN 1090-7017.