For TidBITS readers, the hottest program of the week is Akif Eyler's Easy View 2.1, a snazzy viewer for TidBITS. Other news this week includes an analysis of the recent Apple/Microsoft love-fest, an anti-virus author for hire, an explanation of what happened to the well-regarded mail order firm Maya, and for some relaxing reading, a review of Robert X. Cringely's "Accidental Empires," a thoroughly enjoyable book about the computer industry.
This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
Well, it's that time again - Macworld Boston. I won't see any Internet mail all week, although Tonya will check periodically for important notes. If you need to get in touch with me, send me mail on CompuServe since the Seattle Downtown Business Users' Group (dBUG) kindly lent me their PowerBook 140 so I can stay in touch electronically. Maybe if I'm lucky I'll trade in the 140 at Apple's booth for a new 145 and test out that new 25 MHz 68030 processor. :-)
ON's Engineers -- Benn Kobb answers our rhetorical question from last week about the whereabouts of the engineers who produced the innovative ON machine: "Where are ON's engineers today? They are at ONEAC Corp., one of the major makers of uninterruptible power supplies for computers and stuff. They advertise occasionally in PC trade publications."
Benn Kobb -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Forget all the product introductions at Macworld Expo. Akif Eyler of Turkey has made my summer. Akif recently put the finishing touches on a program called Easy View 2.1 that can, among other things, facilitate the reading of setext files. So yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and he has just brought a viewer for TidBITS! I uploaded Easy View to America Online (Hardware and Utilities libraries), ZiffNet/Mac (ZMC:DOWNTECH #0), CompuServe (MACSYS #6), and the Internet at sumex-aim.stanford.edu and its numerous mirror sites.
Easy View operates on a slightly different principle than you might expect from a text viewer. It cannot modify the original files, and it doesn't import text into its own files. Instead it builds an index to the contents of files in a specific folder, allowing you to read them and search for text within them without ever opening those files manually. I find this particularly useful because I keep all the TidBITS text files in their original states since I occasionally need them that way. In addition, the index file is tiny - the index for 35 issues since the start of the year is 14K. If you wonder how this method works with compression software, Easy View is compatible with Salient's AutoDoubler, and probably with Alysis's More Disk Space and Aladdin's forthcoming SpaceSaver, although I haven't tested with the latter two.
To start using Easy View, you'll need some issues of TidBITS to index. If you don't have as many of the back issues as you would like, you can download them from your favorite site, either now or very soon. I've uploaded to CompuServe (MACCLUB #8), ZiffNet/Mac (ZMC:DOWNTECH #7), America Online (look for a new TidBITS library in the Hardware forum coming soon!), and the Internet (sumex-aim.stanford.edu in the /info-mac/digest/tb directory). As usual, we encourage you to redistribute these back issues to friends, relatives, and BBSs.
In any event, once you have all the back issues defunked, put them in the TidBITS folder that comes with Easy View. The folder can live anywhere, but the index file to those issues must be in that same folder with the original files. Easy View includes an empty index file in the TidBITS folder, so go ahead and double-click on that to start up Easy View. (Of course, as always, I recommend that you first double-click on the "Easy View - Read Me" file for more information on Easy View.) Once you have that TidBITS index file open, select Modify... from the File menu. The Modify... dialog is a bit like the Font/DA Mover, and you can move files from the left hand list to be indexed into the right hand list. If you want to remove a file from the index, select it in the right hand list and move it back to the left side, where it will become available for indexing again.
That's about it for getting started with Easy View, but Akif has built in numerous neat features that will make reading TidBITS easier. The generic Easy View screen shows four panes, three small list panes above and one large text pane below. The left list pane lists the issues in the index, the middle list pane shows the articles in the current issue, and the right pane shows the file's name, size, and modification date. You can modify the size and appearance of the panes and their contents with the Preferences... option under the File menu (that's why the included TidBITS index file may not match what I'm saying here exactly), and of course you can size the window as you wish. Easy View knows about multiple monitors, so zooming to a small second screen works fine. I wish more programs were so considerate of us double-monitor freaks.
You can use the mouse to move around in Easy View, and for those of you who prefer the keyboard, you never have to take your hands off of it. I'll let you find the keyboard equivalents for navigating in the documentation, but suffice it to say that I think everyone should be pleased.
Other than reading TidBITS I suspect that you will want to search for terms or phrases on occasion. Easy View will not let you down. You can search forward only, but you can have Easy View find the current selection or add it to the Find dialog box, and once it's there you can do a simple Find (or Find Next) or extract the found items (either as a line of context or as entire articles) to a text file (which can then be indexed as well, if you wish). Aside from the search direction limitation and the fact that Easy View's Find is case sensitive, my main request for some future version would be the addition of an easy-to-use grep feature. But that's unnecessary at this point.
Preferences abound. You can optionally have Easy View remember window positions, remember index positions (where you were last time you opened the index), show file information, keep a private search string for each file, automatically save the file when modified, and automatically modify the index whenever files are added or removed from the index's folder. I suspect you will find this last feature rather handy because you can just drop a TidBITS issue in the right folder, and next time you start up Easy View, it will add that issue to the index without any intervention on your part.
One important note: Easy View knows about more than just TidBITS. It can index files in six different formats: plain, simple, setext, digest, dictionary, and starred. Make sure that your preferences are set for setext if you plan on indexing TidBITS files, but if you anticipate indexing Info-Mac digests, for instance, you would have to change the format pop-up to Digest. If your format is set incorrectly, the file will not look right in the index, but it's easy to remove, and add again. You have this choice in the Modify... dialog as well, so you shouldn't have trouble remembering.
Akif has made it clear that Easy View is a work in progress, and like all programs it has room for improvement. Nonetheless, I think Akif has done an incredible job and deserves accolades for his past and future efforts. Easy View is free, so all I can suggest is that you send Akif email telling him what you think about Easy View. He appreciates constructive criticism, and I'm sure he doesn't mind hearing how much you like the program either. Thanks, Akif, for a job amazingly well-done!
Akif Eyler -- eyler@trbilun.BITNET
An alert reader suggested this article, and I think it's an excellent way for the Macintosh community to pay back someone who has devoted much time and effort to it. Here's the situation. Jeff Shulman of Shulman Software and author of the popular shareware Virus Detective recently found himself without gainful employment in West Virginia. Although I'm sure West Virginia is a nice place, it's not exactly a hotbed of high tech, and Jeff has relocated to California, a hotbed of many things high and low tech.
We see two ways in which you can help pay Jeff back for all the work he has put in creating Virus Detective and Virus Blockade II, the combination of which is one of the most sophisticated means of protection available. First, and this is the easiest, if you use these programs but have not paid your shareware fee, we encourage you to do so now. Second, if you know of any regular or contract employment for a skilled veteran Macintosh programmer in the South Bay area, it would be nice to drop Jeff a line about it. Shareware fees and other correspondence should go to:
Jeffrey S. Shulman
Shulman Software Co.
1111 W. El Camino Real, Suite 109MAC
Sunnyvale, CA 94087-1057
Two weeks ago Apple and Microsoft made a joint announcement outlining plans for future joint technologies. The plans call for Apple to support a Microsoft database standard called Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) API (Application Programming Interface) as a standard in the Data Access Manager (DAM). In addition, "Microsoft and Apple have endorsed the combination of ODBC and Apple Data Access Language (DAL), via Apple's DAM, a cross-platform solution." This also has to with SQL (Structured Query Language, pronounced "sequel").
I'm sure I'll offend some serious database people, but frankly, what a load of crock. Any agreement with so many abbreviations won't ever come to much, and for the vast majority of normal Macintosh users, it's completely meaningless. (Hint. Most people can throw out the DAL extension that System 7 installs for you. If you don't know what it is, you almost certainly don't need it.)
Microsoft promised two main areas of support for Apple - support for forthcoming System 7.1 features and support for the PowerPC. Mr. Bill will have his programmers supporting Apple's Open Collaboration Environment (OCE) along with the new QuickDraw GX, as well as increased support for Apple events and AppleScript. Big deal. This is good stuff, but not exactly surprising. You think the largest developer of Macintosh programs would actually ignore the major new features of Apple's latest system software? Of course not.
What about supporting the PowerPC? Microsoft claimed that it will develop native mode versions of its main applications (probably just Word and Excel) for the PowerPC chip. I find this slightly more interesting because Steve Jobs and NeXT have needed such support for some time. As sick as this may be, the PowerPC stands a better chance of survival with native mode versions of Word and Excel. Do take that "native mode" with a grain of salt though - Microsoft develops everything in its internal p-code in order to enhance transportability between platforms. Transportability is in itself good, but the p-code tends to make Microsoft's programs behave strangely at times when faced with new system software or hardware.
So why the love-fest? The Apple-centric view of the world says that Apple's new anti-Windows ads worry Microsoft so Mr. Bill pressured Apple into cooperating in the press exercise. I suppose Apple might have wanted to reaffirm the link to ease the minds of large corporate accounts that exist solely on Microsoft products, fearing that these accounts would move to Windows to stick with Microsoft in the event the Mac versions of Word and Excel went away. Alternatively, Microsoft wished to counteract recent accusations that its interest in Windows has completely overshadowed its Macintosh development efforts. We'll probably never know the truth, but my money says it was politicking.
by Don Mayer, Maya Computer -- email@example.com
[Don recently posted this explanation of the demise of Maya Computer on CompuServe, and others immediately flooded the message thread with condolences and regrets. I was sorry to hear of Maya's demise as well, and thought that Don's perspective on the experience might prove educational for those of us who deal with mail order firms on a regular basis. -Adam]
What Happened to Maya Computer? -- Maya Computer closed its doors on Thursday July 8, 1992. I want to thank all of the customers and vendors that have called and expressed their support for Maya's open and honest style of doing business. I think that for those that I have not been able to talk to personally a bit of explanation is in order for the untimely demise of Maya Computer.
Maya Computer's growth was spectacular during the first three years of operation. We grew from $750,000 to $3,000,000 to $10,000,000 in sales by 1991. We failed, however, to track and manage that growth properly and by the fourth year we began to experience significant losses due to out-of-control overhead and overstaffing. It was a natural reaction to increase our staff to meet the incredible volume of phone calls and orders that we were receiving. Our phone system was lit up like a Christmas tree and the phone company told us we were missing 10,000 calls a month. So we staffed up without the careful planning that such an expansion requires and without the operating capital to support the inventory required to meet the increased number of orders.
For the most part our employees and the owners of Maya reacted maturely and energetically to the problems created by the growth and losses. We cut everyone's pay, reduced overhead and laid-off almost 1/2 of our staff in an attempt to stabilize operations.
We were fortunate in July of 1991 to have received $1,000,000 of capital on what we believed were favorable terms. This capital came at a critical juncture in the company's development. The loan was to be a four year interest-only loan with conversion to equity at the option of the company. As a convenience to the lender we signed a demand note for the money with the clear notion that a comprehensive document would be signed 30 to 60 days later.
In late 1991 several disagreements developed with the lender relating to personnel and management of the company. Maya Computer's Board of Directors met to address these issues in February of 1992 and passed resolutions clarifying the management of the company.
Shortly thereafter, despite our understanding of the terms of the loan, we received a certified letter from an entity in New York by the name of Roper Enterprises claiming that they had been assigned our $1,000,000 note and that immediate payment was demanded. Upon investigation, it was later determined that the loan had not been assigned. Nevertheless, the demand changed our approach to the business. We began to search for replacement investors and in every case once we disclosed the called $1,000,000 note the banker or investor would race for the door. We were unable to extend our credit lines or make long term plans with this sword of Damocles hanging over our heads.
We were contacted by the lawyer for the lender and asked to prepare a "work-out" plan for the million dollar note. In late May, that plan was rejected and we received a second demand to pay the note, this time with the proper assignment of the loan. Several days later we were contacted by the lender and were told that he wanted to negotiate a settlement of the situation. We responded positively to that notion but were served 24 hours later with a lawsuit demanding possession of all of our assets.
We notified our bank, the Franklin Lamoille, of the lawsuit and prepared to go to court to defend ourselves. On the day of the scheduled court hearing the bank seized our bank account and demanded payment on their loans and offset our bank balances as partial payment of those loans. This effectively put us out of business. The bank was significantly over-collateralized and their action made little sense, especially since we had kept them informed of our financial condition on a frequent basis.
We never got to tell our story to the court but rather were pressured into signing an agreement to turn over our assets to Roper Enterprises. In July, 1992 we held a liquidation sale for one week, raising enough capital to pay the bank and later turned over the remaining inventory and assets to Roper Enterprises. Maya Computer is now a company with no assets and all liabilities and is out of business.
While this adversity brought out the worst in some people it also brought out the best in our team. Employees worked long hours for little pay to try to breathe life into Maya. We worked long and hard to ensure that no customers got caught in our problems, even though the lender refused to allow us to pay customers for equipment sent to us, make refunds or to honor checks that had been bounced by the bank's action.
Who are the winners and losers and where does Maya go from here? There are not many winners in this situation. All of the owners lost their investment in the company, which for most of us is all the money we had or could borrow. The lender may lose a considerable portion of his investment. Many of Maya's vendors lost money and a few customers got caught in this unfortunate situation. The lender got some stuff (inventory and desks) but the people at Maya have their integrity, friendship and pride intact. We have been encouraged by the large number of customers and vendors who have been so supportive during our troubles, many of whom have gone out of their way to thank us for the job we did.
We are discussing forming a new company with a number of potential investors. We have a dedicated, highly trained professional staff that works exceptionally well as a team. We have a group of very loyal customers and a business concept that prides itself on honesty and customer service. As I sat with our employees and it was clear that we would be closing our doors, we cried together and vowed that the lesson to be learned from this experience would NOT be to distrust everyone and act ruthlessly but rather that trust, honesty, friendship and hard work are too important to sacrifice for money. Whether we are back together in a new company or separately in other organizations, you will always be able to identify a Mayan by their enthusiasm for their work and that smile that comes from having done the right thing.
Maya Computer Company
It's summer again, and all respectable publications have reviews of books that would be appropriate for summer reading, whatever that is. I've never found that one season was necessarily any better than another for reading, but I've found a book that reads well any time of the year.
Robert X. Cringely, InfoWorld's pseudonymous rumor columnist, has dipped into his vast store of industry knowledge and anecdotes to produce "Accidental Empires: How the boys of Silicon Valley make their millions, battle foreign competition, and still can't get a date." You may not always be able to judge a book by its cover, but Cringely's flip subtitle gives a pretty good introduction to what is in many ways an insightfully flip book.
Like several other books, most notably Steven Levy's "Hackers," which covers a period of time somewhat prior to where Cringely picks up, "Accidental Empires" presents a history of the computer industry. I specifically say "a" history, since I suspect that some people disagree with Cringely's version of various events. No trouble there - eminent historians seldom agree completely on the specifics either. "Accidental Empires" has a more narrow focus than Levy's "Hackers" in that it aims more directly at the business end of the industry, rather than looking at the machines or the people. Cringely does zero in on a number of people, but primarily the larger-than-life figures in the industry like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.
In the end, though, three things set "Accidental Empires" apart from the rest of the industry corpus. First, Cringely may be flip, but I found his writing a joy to read, an uncommon occurrence in industry works. His style includes an engaging level of self-deprecation that tempers many of his harsh comments about various industry figures. This is evident from the start, when he notes the three groups that will hate this book, the people mentioned in it, the people not mentioned but would like to be in the first group, and the people who don't "give a damn about the other two hate groups and will just hate the book because somewhere I write that object-oriented programming was invented in Norway in 1967, when they know it was invented in Bergen, Norway, on a rainy afternoon in late 1966." So if you fall into one of these groups, Cringely is ready for you.
Second, I think Cringely sees the industry as driven more by personality and ego than anything else, and as such he spends a fair amount of time analyzing the major figures, presenting his usually justified opinions of what makes them tick and why. For instance, about Gates, Cringely says:
Young Bill Gates is incredibly competitive because he has a terrific need to win. Give him an advantage, and he'll take it. Allow him an advantage, and he'll still take it. ... Those who think he cheats to win are generally wrong. What's right is that Gates doesn't mind winning ungracefully. A win is still a win. It's clear that if Bill Gates thinks he can't win, he won't play.
Cringely's view of Steve Jobs carries an equal amount of insight:
The most dangerous man in Silicon Valley sits alone on many weekday mornings, drinking coffee at Il Fornaio, an Italian restaurant on Cowper Street in Palo Alto. He's not the richest guy around or the smartest, but under a haircut that looks as if someone put a bowl on his head and trimmed around the edges, Steve Jobs holds an idea that keeps some grown men and women of the Valley awake at night. Unlike these insomniacs, Jobs isn't in this business for the money, and that's what makes him dangerous.
Third and finally, Cringely does what few other chroniclers attempt and makes suggestions about how things might be done better. I find this delightful, especially in this day and age of dour economic and competitive predictions. Cringely claims, perhaps correctly, that mainframes will die on January 1st, 2000. That's because all those mainframe programs that cut paychecks and pay taxes and track inventory were programmed years ago when no one thought that the same program would do its duty without modification in the year 2000. Cringely maintains, and I suspect he's right, that much source code was lost or destroyed long ago. If that's true, many of these programs will cease to work, and the age of the microcomputer will truly begin. At that paradigm shift, he suggests, software will truly become all-important and we will need a new model for publishing it. Companies cannot afford to build the infrastructure each time, so Cringely offers the idea of the software studio, based on the movie and TV industry in which the studios create the infrastructure, and the players - programmers in this case - all work on contract and are free to move on afterwards. It's an intriguing idea, and only putting it into practice would prove its efficacy one way or the other.
Whether or not you agree with Cringely's assessment of the industry and suggestions for its future, I recommend that you find "Accidental Empires" at a bookstore or library soon. Among the numerous books in my computer book collection, I think "Accidental Empires" is one of the more enjoyable and more elucidating. It's hard to beat that combination, whether the weather is sultry or frigid.
As an aside, "Robert X. Cringely" is a pseudonym, and one that a recent BYTE review of the book theoretically revealed. I don't necessarily place much faith in that report, and frankly, I don't give a damn. I think there's too little mystery in this world as it stands, and not knowing who writes those columns is a thoroughly trivial and pleasant mystery. Also, I hear from reliable sources that the same person has written the column for quite a few years so Bob Cringely is not some collective alien being. You can even send him mail on the Internet at <CRINGE@mcimail.com>. Anyone who reads email can't be all bad.
Oh, and if you consider yourself a rabid Macintosh user who cares little for the rest of the industry, don't worry. Despite the broad-based view of the industry, including notes about IBM, Microsoft, and Sun, followers of Apple will find plenty of juicy reading, and besides, it's good to get out and look at the rest of the world. Finally, don't feel left out, I have it on good authority that Cringely himself uses a IIcx and Word.
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