Mark Anbinder reports on Apple's latest addition to the PowerBook family, the PowerBook 150, along with Apple's new 15" monitor and new keyboard. FullWrite makes the news with an Internet mailing list and a long-awaited upgrade, StuffIt Expander and DropStuff go back for a quick fix, and Roy McDonald of Connectix takes us inside the process of porting RAM Doubler to the Power Macs.
This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
Due to various changes at Dartmouth, the URL for the World-Wide Web version of TidBITS has changed. The new URL is:
Aladdin Systems <email@example.com> writes:
Swept up in the enthusiasm and zealousness to release the new StuffIt Expander 3.5 and DropStuff with Expander Enhancer (DSEE), we screwed up. In a nutshell, the release versions of these utilities will expire on 16-Aug-94. In addition, the auto-registration feature of DSEE isn't working properly. By the end of July, however, we will post versions 3.5.1 which will resolve these issues.
Pythaeus writes to tell us that although Apple has developed a new 68040 emulator for the Power Macintosh that reportedly runs twice as fast as the emulator, the new emulator cannot run on existing Power Macs due to ROM incompatibilities. The problem apparently lies with having too many 68040 cache-flushing calls in the current Power Mac ROMs, and those calls destroy the performance increase of the new emulator. These calls will be fixed in future Power Mac ROMs, but the new emulator code won't work on current Power Macs. [ACE]
Newton and Windows users will be thrilled to hear that version 2.0 of the Newton Connection Kit for Windows, announced in March, is finally shipping. Registered users of 1.0 should automatically receive free upgrades over the next few weeks. If you own the Newton Connection Kit for Windows but don't receive an upgrade by mid-August, contact the Newton Fulfillment Center at 800/242-3374. (Users outside the U.S. should contact their local Newton reseller.) If you haven't yet taken the plunge, the new package is available (item H0029LL/B) for $99. [MHA]
Yet another spec sheet error came to our attention last week. For reasons nobody can figure out, compatibility charts show that A/UX 3.1 is compatible with the Workgroup Server 9150 (which is a Power Mac system, none of which run A/UX). Can you say "Oops"? I thought you could. [ACE]
I wonder if one overlooked reason for not buying a Power Mac is the relative scarcity of life-improving utilities. Adobe only recently announced a native ATM for Power Macs, and it won't ship for a few weeks, if then. Also, Adobe apparently has no plans to port Type Reunion to the Power Macs; as the owner of several hundred (licensed) fonts, I need it. Directory Assistance II from Norton Utilities and other useful utilities fall into the same category of desperately needing a port.
Authors of shareware utilities (like Speedometer) are laboring to bring them up to spec, and that's commendable. I worry about industry juggernauts like Adobe and Symantec. Sure, I can run big-name programs on a Power Mac, but as the saying goes, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. For the next several months, it looks like utilities will be that link.
The PowerPort/Gold for 100-series PowerBook models dropped in price last week, according to Global Village Communication. Apple won't offer any modem-bundled PowerBook 150s, so Global Village hopes to capture the lion's share of modem sales for the new PowerBooks. The suggested retail price dropped from $349 to $299; ten-packs of the 14,400 bps data/fax modem (for real modem fiends) dropped from $3,199 to $2,479. [MHA]
Jon Pugh <firstname.lastname@example.org> commented in email that Star Trek: The Next Generation had little Newton-like devices all over on the bridge. Jon mused half-jokingly that if Apple could keep the Newton alive for a few hundred years, we'd be all set. My immediate reaction was that Apple is marketing to the wrong niche - instead of doctors and delivery people, Apple should market the Newton to Star Trek fans. It sounds silly, but with the proper logo and a custom interface... .[ACE]
FullWrite List -- A mailing list devoted to discussing the FullWrite word processor has appeared on the Internet. To subscribe, send email to <email@example.com> with this line in the body of the message:
SUBSCRIBE FW-NEWS your full name
Thanks to Eric Enwall <firstname.lastname@example.org> for setting up this list for FullWrite users. [ACE]
FullWrite Upgrade -- The FullWrite list hasn't had much traffic lately, but news about the upcoming version came through the list a few days ago. FullWrite 2.0 sounds promising, with features such as tables, two-page editing, indexing, table of contents, text wrap around graphics, watermarks, drag & drop, and a glossary that stores chunks of pre-typed text. The glossary in FullWrite can also function much like AutoCorrect, a heavily marketed Word for Windows 6.0 feature that may show up in Macintosh Word 6.0. For example, FullWrite can automatically correct common misspellings, such as "recieve." When FullWrite 1.0 shipped, one of its main problems was that it wanted more RAM than most people had. What with lowered memory costs and RAM Doubler, FullWrite 2.0's 2 MB RAM requirement should not be a major problem. (According to the list, a recent MacWEEK article incorrectly reported a 700K requirement.) Although Akimbo Systems has a Power Mac native version in the works, for now FullWrite 2.0 runs on 68K Macs or in emulation mode on Power Macs. Akimbo plans to ship FullWrite in early August and demo the program at Boston Macworld. [TJE]
Akimbo Systems -- 617/776-5500 -- 617/776-5512 (fax) --<email@example.com>
by Mark H. Anbinder, News Editor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Director of Technical Services, Baka Industries Inc.
Earlier this month, Global Village Communication released version 2.08b of its GlobalFax software and TelePort software for serial TelePort modem models. This update enables Power Macintosh users to send and receive faxes using a Global Village serial modem. The fix actually incorporates two parts. The first part is available as part of Apple's System Update 3.0, and is included with GlobalFax 2.08b. The second is built into the new TelePort control panel.
You can download the software from the Global Village support BBS (a FirstClass system) at 415/390-8334, and on the Internet at:
This update is for Global Village's TelePort/Bronze II, TelePort/Silver, TelePort/Gold, and TelePort/Mercury modems. It will not work with the TelePort/Bronze, TelePort A300 (the original ADB modem), or TelePort FullFax modems. Owners of these modems should not attempt to install this software update, as the installer will remove the ADB-specific TelePort software, rendering the modem unusable. (This can of course be corrected if the appropriate software is reinstalled.)
PowerPort software is also at version 2.08b, and it is for the new PowerPort/Mercury for the PowerBook Duo. Other than Duo and Power Macintosh users, previous owners of Global Village's modems need not upgrade their software to 2.08b. (PowerPort/Mercury for Duo owners will receive the correct version with the modem, in any case.)
Global Village modem owners with current TelePort Serial and PowerPort software can use the 2.1 version of GlobalFax software that ships with the company's OneWorld fax servers. This allows users to take advantage of a central OneWorld fax server while at the office or while linked via AppleTalk Remote Access, while enabling these users to utilize their own directly connected modems at other times. Among other features, GlobalFax 2.1 provides grayscale fax transmission, intelligent requeueing of unsent or incomplete faxes, faster processing, and better handling of memo text on cover sheets. Global Village plans to release GlobalFax 2.1 for general use with its stand-alone serial TelePort and PowerPort modems, but has not yet announced an availability date. (There are no plans to update the GlobalFax software for early ADB TelePort models.)
-- Information from:
Global Village Communication <email@example.com>
Glenn Fleishman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
by Mark H. Anbinder, News Editor <email@example.com>
Director of Technical Services, Baka Industries Inc.
Apple's various CPU divisions had a big day last week, and not to be outdone, the company's peripheral-designing groups are letting the Apple Multiple Scan 15 Display and the AppleDesign Keyboard out into the world. Both products are shipping now, though Apple says the higher education market will get first crack at the monitor.
The Multiple Scan 15 Display is a more affordable addition to Apple's line of multi-resolution monitors, with an Apple Price of $505. It sports a 15-inch flat, square screen, and supports 640 x 480 to 832 x 624 resolutions on Macintoshes (up to 1024 x 768 on PCs). The monitor complies with MPR II electromagnetic emissions standards, and the EPA's EnergyStar conservation guidelines, and includes a tilt-swivel base, stereo speakers, front-panel headphone jack, and a zoom control that enlarges the displayed image into the black border area around the edge of the monitor.
The AppleDesign Keyboard, bundled with the Performa 570 series since April, replaces the Apple Keyboard II as a less-expensive keyboard option, with an $85 Apple Price. It has a 105-key layout, complete with function keys and a numeric keypad, much like the Apple Extended Keyboard II, but it has a two meter ADB cable permanently attached.
-- Information from:
by Mark H. Anbinder, News Editor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Apple's PowerBook series no longer holds the top position it enjoyed in the notebook computer market for a while; recent DataQuest analyses show IBM and Compaq portables leading the pack. Apple hopes to reclaim the lead, though, with the immensely popular 500 series ("Blackbird") PowerBook models, introduced earlier this year, and the newly introduced PowerBook 150.
A direct replacement for the low-end PowerBook 145B, the PowerBook 150 weighs in at a svelte 5.5 pounds, comes with a pre-installed software bundle that includes ClarisWorks and Apple's PowerBook Mobility Bundle (which includes the PowerBook Control Strip), has a bigger display and more hard disk space than its predecessor, supports more memory, runs faster, and has an Apple Price of $1,449.
Apple expects the PowerBook 150's fan club to include computer novices whose needs don't include vast amounts of processing power, people having limited budgets, and existing Macintosh owners who need a notebook computer but plan to keep their current desktop Mac. The resulting attention to cost means the 150 lacks such niceties as external monitor support, SCSI disk mode, and audio input, but these, and other absent features, are available in the other members of the PowerBook family.
One likely market segment for the PowerBook 150 will be users who don't need fancy features, but want a light PowerBook. Apple's PowerBook Duo series is lighter still (4.2 to 4.8 pounds) but lacks an internal floppy disk drive and some standard ports when not connected to a dock or docking adapter. The new 500 series PowerBooks weigh from 6.3 to 7.3 pounds, and the only remaining sibling in the 100 series PowerBook line, the 165, weighs 6.8 pounds.
Other than the weight and video output, the PowerBook 150 is similar to the 165. Each sports a 33 MHz 68030 processor without a math coprocessor, and each has a grayscale display. (The PowerBook 150's screen offers four shades of gray.) Using memory expansion cards designed for the PowerBook Duo series, though, the 150 supports up to 40 MB of RAM, while the 165 stops at 14 MB. Other than the memory, the PowerBook 150 supports accessories used in previous 100 series PowerBooks, such as add-on AC adapters, batteries, chargers, and modems.
How did Apple manage to make the PowerBook 150 lighter without changing its size or shape, and without making it more expensive rather than less? According to an Apple spokesperson, several engineering advances enabled the designers to shave off that pound. For example, the logic board uses a single-board approach similar to that used in the Duo series. By comparison, previous 100 series PowerBooks had a motherboard and daughterboard, which was good for modularity reasons but added weight. Also, the 150 includes a floppy drive which is functionally the same as that in the 145B, but is smaller and lighter. Meanwhile, the PowerBook 150's display, even though it has a 640 x 480 display area, is both lighter and less expensive than the 640 x 400 display on the 145B.
The PowerBook 150 won't satisfy eager Mac users who were hoping for a low-priced PowerBook with all the features of a 540c (what would?), but it should do well with first-time Mac users and those without especially demanding computing needs. We suspect it will be a best-seller when students return to U.S. college campuses in several weeks, and casual notebook users will find a winner here as well.
-- Information from:
by Roy McDonald, Connectix Corporation
Presented at the Sumeria Technology and Issues Conference, 30-Jun-94
This paper is a case history of the development of RAM Doubler 1.5, the Power Mac-compatible version of the popular Connectix memory management utility, RAM Doubler 1.0.
We began work on the PowerPC version of RAM Doubler in the fourth quarter of 1993, when we entered the final stages of the 68K development. Our initial target for the port release was the third quarter of 1994. We're on schedule and expect to release the final version within about a month. This port was the twenty-third major software development in the firm's history and was one of our most successful projects in terms of schedule, budget, and performance to specification. This paper gives our perspective on some of the obstacles we had to overcome and why things went well.
First, I should point out that our problems were somewhat different from those of a mainstream application developer. RAM Doubler is a specialized utility which is both easier and harder to port than a major application. On the plus side it's small; the total code base is less than 40K, so the number of lines of code to be rewritten is limited. On the minus side the nature of the product is that it modifies the operating system at the most basic levels and cannot be readily ported with standard translators. RAM Doubler 1.0 is one of the few mass volume products in today's market that won't work at all in emulated mode. So the amount of work per line of code was relatively high. (And the urgency to develop a Power Mac-compatible version was equally high!)
Here are the main things we learned in doing the port:
Apple really can and will help.
Start with a solid 68K foundation.
Port first, improve later.
Modularize the project.
Deal with motivational issues.
Apple really can and will help! Over the past 6 years Connectix has watched the evolution of Apple's third-party relationships. On the whole the trend is positive with a greatly reduced "Not Invented Here" quotient and a general increase in understanding of what developers need to do their work. I want to thank the PowerPC software team in particular for spending two hours with us in March thumbing through the source code answering specific questions were stuck on at that crucial stage of the project. It probably saved us a month on our critical path and was time they could barely afford at that point. The lesson is that Apple has a vested interest in getting good PowerPC-native software out there fast and you should look to them for all the help you can get.
Start with a solid 68K foundation. This is obvious but easy to overlook. The temptation is to postpone your last major maintenance revision and roll it into the PowerPC project. This is a major mistake! You will definitely introduce new bugs into your code in doing the PowerPC-native port and the last thing you want to be doing is sorting out old bugs from new ones. Debugging time increases exponentially with the number of unresolved bugs present at any one time, so clean up the 68K code before you port, no matter what you think that will do to your critical path timeline.
Port first, improve later. This is probably the most important decision we made and it paid off. Just as with maintenance, there's a natural inclination to take advantage of a major revision such as a port to "finally do it right." There will be plenty of algorithms, implementations, or features that seem stale in the old 68K code and which your team will want to improve. The problem, again, is that you'll have to regress new bugs not knowing if they came from translating your stable 68K code base, or in adding the new PowerPC-specific code. The surprisingly large diseconomies of scale in debugging argue strongly in favor of doing a straight port first and an improved product second. This is true even if you don't plan to release the intermediate version.
There were many examples in our code where we would have liked to rewrite huge sections for PowerPC. Two specific examples were our system patches, which we believed should be native, and our aging table updates, where we knew that our old procedure would probably be too slow in the PowerPC-native version, or rather not enough faster to keep up with the other very fast PowerPC code. What we found, to our surprise, was that although the aging process needed to be reworked, our system patches were not a performance issue. By making the port the first priority, we were able to make moderate changes in the standard algorithm, achieve very good performance, and minimize the technical risks associated with going to a new approach. The ultimate code was at least as fast as we believe the new method would have been.
There are plenty of reasons not to expand the goals of the product in the port. Your team must learn new development tools, cope with a new environment and discover a whole new set of gotchas that don't exist in 68K. There's no reason to add to this burden by specing new features, debugs of old problems or improvements of working implementations. Besides if you do, you'll have to go back to the old 68K code and fix it later anyway, so you don't save much time.
Now, I should point out that this central point may be specific to the system software and utility side of the business. If you look at the two largest developers of Mac software, Apple and Microsoft, you'll see opposite approaches. Apple essentially followed the strategy we just described in shipping the first OS for PowerPC, preferring to introduce major feature revisions in the first update. Conversely, Microsoft has announced a major feature revision in concert with their major applications ports. I'm not sure how this affected the relative release schedules.
Modularize the development. The exponential rule of debugging implies that if you can tackle 100 bugs ten at a time it will take a tenth as long as taking them all on at once. So for this reason alone, it's especially critical in such a bug-intensive project as a PowerPC port to modularize the development. There's another benefit, too. You can start by working on the sections of the code that will make the product feel faster first and leave the secondary work for later. Using the 80/20 rule this way motivates the development team in the hard, early stages with tangible results.
Of course, by modularizing a system-level product, you may end up with a mixed 68K and PowerPC product. There are two disadvantages of shipping mixed code. First, mixed-mode switches between the 68K and PowerPC worlds require running 40-50 instructions. In the case of a speed-oriented product like RAM Doubler this is often unacceptable, but in many cases it's quite tolerable. Second, there's an unfortunate growing perception in the user community that a good PowerPC product must be 100 percent native (like 100 percent cotton or 100 percent Columbian coffee) to be a quality package. So there's a marketing problem to solve that's largely independent from the true performance of the code.
Deal with the motivational issues. If you follow the strategy we've outlined risk of making the project seem like it's "just a port" and therefore not particularly sexy. You'll probably need your best engineers who know the most about your most valuable code heavily involved in the project to make it come out well. Half the battle here is just recognizing the issue up front and putting a little extra energy into showing appreciation for the work. You must make a special effort to provide this team with the best available hardware - (our guys got their 8100s before the VPs did) - and don't forget to keep the engineering refrigerators amply supplied with Jolt cola and doughnuts!
Be flexible. On several occasions we had conflicting views on how to code a particular problem. Rather than having meetings and involving lots of people to determine the best answer, we let two independent teams work on their respective views. Much of the time, before the work was done, one team would give in and admit to the other's better approach. In other cases, both teams would produce adequate results, which might be presumed as wasteful. However, even in these cases we wasted remarkably little effort, because the two teams would often run into different sets of bugs that nonetheless affected each other. When we combined the two solutions, the result was a far more solid solution than what either team could have done independently.
Share the glory. We get about twenty letters a day from RAM Doubler users who love our product. About four months ago we started collecting them, highlighting the best phrases and leaving them on a counter outside the RAM Doubler engineering area. It's a small touch but has a big impact on morale and, ultimately, productivity. Whenever a difficult problem arises these letters serve to pick up the spirits of the team and remind people what a good job they do.
Be realistic. There are two ways to manage deadlines in a development project, and the right one depends on the personalities you work with. The traditional approach is to impose a tough deadline which in retrospect was unachievable but which theoretically squeezes out the fastest possible result, at the expense of higher burn-out. For Connectix, a better way seems to be to set a reasonable deadline, state up front that you know it can't possibly be met and then, as often as not, your team beats it to prove you wrong. In any case that's what happened with RAM Doubler 1.5.
On that note, let me take just a minute to help you imagine a quick demo. This is an 8 MB Power Mac 6100 launching SoftWindows into an RAM doubled 16 MB partition. While opens, I'll mention that the comparable benchmark is 34 seconds to launch this on a true 16 MB Mac. I won't to bore you by making you wait the 112 seconds it would take to do this running 8 MB and System 7 Virtual Memory. There - if you were timing you got a total time of 37 seconds, less than ten percent slower than the pure RAM case. And this is one of the worst performance cases we've uncovered. Our general performance vs. true RAM is 99 to 99.5 percent the speed, because the PowerPC is perfectly suited to the computation-intensive operations of memory management and compression that RAM Doubler uses.
This demo was ready for the Sumeria conference because we adhered to five main principles: let Apple help, start with stable code, port first, improve later, modularize the project, and deal with the motivational issues. RAM Doubler 1.5 will be available in early August, is compatible with both 68K and PowerPC, is a free upgrade from the earlier 68K-only version and continues to carry a list price of $99. For more information on this or any other Connectix product you can reach us on the net at <email@example.com>, or by phone at 800/950-5880. Now, on to the Windows version...
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.