So what does John Sculley's new company do? How do you stop those nasty NDN bounces from FirstClass bulletin boards? Where can you snag the new Apple Modem Tool 1.5? Find the answers to these questions in this issue, along with a look at Apple's new pricing scheme, a report on the famed free Color It deal, a review of the Handeze gloves that have significantly helped our RSI problems, and announcements of updates to MacTools and QUED/M.
This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
It's been a busy afternoon. I finally broke down and purchased a Centris 660AV (but unfortunately one with the new manual inject floppy drive) to replace my SE/30, which will eventually handle server duties. As I caught my breath from writing the check, Apple announced Macintosh TV, a $2,079 device that combines a 32 MHz 68030-based Macintosh, a 14" color television, and a double-speed CD-ROM player. The propaganda claims that the Macintosh TV can be connected to a VCR, camcorder, laserdisc player, or video game player, but since I have only a VCR and I already have a TV, I'm not worried that I should have waited for Macintosh TV. Besides, as I understand it, all of the TV features are exclusive of the Macintosh features, which makes it a less interesting box to high-end users. Still, it's a cool idea that's bound to be popular in the home and education markets, and I'll look at it in more depth next week.
MacTools 3.0 is now available from Central Point Software with new features, including TrashBack and AutoCheck, two System 7-only utilities that enable one-step file undeleting from the Finder's Special menu and automatic background disk checking. DiskFix now finds corrupt files and fixes corrupt Desktop files; Backup uses fewer disks; FastCopy returns to the package from version 1.x; and an Emergency Disk Builder feature helps you create an emergency disk for your system, enabler and all. MacTools 3.0 lists for $149.95, but upgrades from previous versions or any competing data-protection or virus-protection program cost $49.95.
Central Point Software -- 800/964-6896 -- email@example.com
New QUED/M -- Nisus Software recently released an update to their popular programmer's editor, QUED/M. The new QUED/M 2.6 includes links to Symantec's THINK C 6.0 environment so that you can use QUED/M instead of THINK's editor. Other improvements include the ability to launch QUED/M from the project window, a THINK menu containing common commands, lookups to THINK Reference 2.0, access to the project's include files from QUED/M's title bar, and the ability to use THINK commands within QUED/M macros to automate compilation, linking, and building of applications. Upgrades for registered users of 2.5 cost $15, whereas owners of older versions pay $49. QUED/M 2.6 lists for $149.
Nisus Software -- 619/481-1477 -- 619/481-6154 (fax) -- firstname.lastname@example.org
PageMaker 5.0 Quirk -- Jon.Hersh <email@example.com> writes:
PageMaker 5.0 has lots of neat new features and is a terrific next step for those of us who don't want to use QuarkXPress, but one "feature" I've come across will confuse some folks. If you assign NORMAL tracking to the text of a PageMaker 4.x document and convert the file to PageMaker 5.0 format, you may find that the text takes up more space (ranging from several to as much as 15 or 20 lines per page, judging from one three-column layout I looked at).
Apparently, Aldus received feedback that the tracking feature's NORMAL and VERY TIGHT options were too close together in how closely they kerned type, so they added more space to NORMAL. If you always want to use your old tracking setup, the PageMaker manual explains how to do that, but if you want to step up to the new tracking definitions, but don't want to mess around with re-laying out your old pages, here's my work-around.
Select all the text in the text block in question, hold down the Command and Shift keys, and tap the left arrow two or three times. Each tap reduces your word spacing by 1/100 of an em. An exact match appears to be 2.5 taps (and no, I have no idea how to create a half-tap). This applies specifically to the Caring for Wrists PageMaker file that I designed with Adam and Tonya Engst - if you open that file in PageMaker 5.0, the text on the second page overflows badly until you reduce the word spacing slightly. Obviously, if you print the PostScript version of the file with the LaserWriter Utility, you won't have to worry about any of this nonsense.
Apple external drives seem to have reappeared, and Apple advertised them in the 18-Oct-93 issue of MacWEEK. Apple is selling three drives - a 160 MB for $369, a 230 MB for $479, and a 500 MB for $799 - and all drives come with Central Point Safe & Sound, Central Point Backup, DiskDoubler, and Apple HD SC Setup. Although these prices are at least in the ballpark, which wasn't true when Apple ceased selling external drives a few years ago, standard prices from mail order vendors like APS range from $80 to $150 cheaper. Is the Apple logo worth that much on a hard drive?
Apple -- 800/233-8813 ext. 480
by Mark H. Anbinder, News Editor -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Technical Support Coordinator, BAKA Computers
Reviews are mixed so far on Apple's announcement last week that they're doing away with the "Suggested Retail Price" and will instead publish street prices "more in line with the market" in the future. The announcement accompanied Apple's introduction of rebadged and new computers (see TidBITS #195) and new printers.
According to Apple, this is a marketing move aimed at bringing Apple's published prices closer to typical selling prices. The company says other manufacturers' published prices have generally been closer to the final selling price, making other products' prices seem lower, by comparison, than Apple's Macintosh prices.
The change may make Macintosh computers seem more economical, but infuriates some dealers, whose margins have been shrinking anyway. The difference may also confuse users who have grown accustomed to asking for, and receiving, discounted prices for large purchases. Because the published prices have been reduced across the board without matching reductions in the dealers' acquisition costs, many dealers will be unable or unwilling to significantly discount hardware purchases.
Apple apologized to dealers a couple of years ago after a Macintosh advertisement quipped "But who pays retail price anymore?" in the small print. The effect may be the same this time, but no apology is likely.
Future months will tell whether or not Apple's strategy has the desired effect: increasing Macintosh sales by making Mac prices more visibly competitive. If so, dealers might stand to gain from the increased sales. If not, Apple might simply be shrinking the pieces of an already-small pie.
Apple has finished version 1.5 of the Apple Modem Tool, and modem users would do well to check it out. Major improvements include MNP support in software and additions to the user interface that enable you to create and edit a pop-up menu of frequently dialed phone numbers and to create and edit new modem types. Other new features include a cool About box (click on the version number), a better interface for switching between dialing and waiting for a call, and a Cabling button that displays a picture of the cable pinouts that you need. You can save the picture as a TeachText file, print the file, and either bring it to a store to get the right cable or use it to create your own cable.
Finding the modem tool proves a little difficult, since Apple hasn't posted the tool anywhere that we've heard, but has shipped it with the Newton Connection Kit and allowed it to ship with a demo version of Communicate Lite from Mark/Space Softworks (see TidBITS #184). Unlike the Newton Connection Kit, that demo is widely available on the nets, so you can snag the Apple Modem Tool and take a look at Communicate Lite while you're at it. I'll upload the demo to <ftp.tidbits.com>, and you can get it from <netcom.com> as:
or from your favorite sumex or mac.archive mirror site. It's also available on AppleLink (in the Third Party Demos folder) and on AOL (in the Macintosh Communications Forum's New Files library), but not yet on CompuServe, GEnie, or Delphi. If you'd like to upload it there, I'm sure people would appreciate it.
Mark/Space Softworks -- 800/799-4737 -- 510/649-7627 -- 408/982-9781 (support) -- 408/982-9780 (fax) -- email@example.com
People who run mailing lists, and even some who simply post to Usenet, have had messages bounce back to them with "NDN" in the Subject line. These bounces come from FirstClass BBSes running the PostalUnion UUCP gateway, and usually stem from an incorrect setup. If you are the sysop of a FirstClass board using PostalUnion, you can prevent these bounces, according to Maury Markowitz <firstname.lastname@example.org> of SoftArc, makers of FirstClass. He suggests the following four preventative measures (and if you could send these tips to your FirstClass sysop, those of us who get these bounces will thank you!):
Make sure you have a conference named "JunkNews".
Make sure you have a user or mailing list named "Postmaster".
Make sure you set the expiry dates correctly - one or two days is a good number.
Make sure that you go to EVERY conference that's on the Internet and get Permissions. Make sure that the FIRST line of the WHO field reads "Internet" and "Contributor".
One of the most audacious marketing moves in recent times comes from MicroFrontier, a small company little-known in the Macintosh market. In the past their programs have been marketed by other companies, and that was true of Color It, their image editing and color paint program, which until recently lived in the Timeworks stable. Timeworks no longer markets Color It, though, and to create an installed base and a market presence, MicroFrontier has been offering a special deal on Color It.
Special deals generally mean a discount, or maybe a t-shirt, but MicroFrontier has gone all the way to free. Well, not quite free, since they charge $8.37 for order processing, shipping, and handling, but $8.37 is a low enough number that I expect they're barely recouping the cost of the floppies and the paper for the manual and box, if even that. The deal lasts until 31-Dec-93 or until MicroFrontier gives away a million copies. I suspect that the date will arrive first, but hey, you never know. Starting in 1994, the price reverts back to $149.95, which isn't all that bad given that Adobe Photoshop, the acknowledged leader in the field, lists for $895 and can be found for $550.
I hesitated to write about the offer until I had a chance to call myself, and it seemed legitimate, although there's no telling until I receive my copy of Color It. As the nice - but extremely harried - woman who took my order said, that won't be for four to six weeks. For $8.37 I can wait.
I asked a contact at MicroFrontier why they were doing this, since it seemed like a desperate move. He admitted up front that the company wants to establish a massive base of users who will want to purchase upgrades in the future. That's a good idea, and one which Borland has put to good use on a number of occasions in the PC world. The only hitch is that MicroFrontier is giving away Color It 2.3, the latest version. They'll have to come out with a significant upgrade quickly to keep the cash flow high - I remember when Borland used similar guerilla marketing tactics with Quattro Pro, they came out with major upgrades every six months.
My contact also said that this move puts MicroFrontier on the Macintosh map. Before, MicroFrontier had difficulties getting much cooperation from online services and the like, since few people knew of the company, but with all the furor stirred up by the offer, other companies are paying more attention. You need a high profile to succeed in the mass market, and this deal should raise MicroFrontier's profile.
Finally, I suspect MicroFrontier has a number of co-marketing agreements that should help them keep going until they have paying customers again. The propaganda advertising the offer mentions deals with La Cie, HSC's Kai's Power Tools Gradient Designer, Lizard Tech's Planet Color image compression software, Digital Vision's Computer Eyes/RT SCSI video frame grabber, a four-color separation program called Phototone Lite, and Expert Software's Expert Draw. The money is in the marketing, and if everyone wins, no one complains.
I've never used Color It, so I can't comment on how well it performs, but a graphic designer friend (Jon.Hersh, who provided the PageMaker tip above) who has used it finds Color It somewhat easier to use than Photoshop, but adds that although Color It uses most, if not all, Photoshop filters (such as Aldus Gallery Effects and Kai's Power Tools), it may not sport quite the same level of power. That assumes, of course, that everyone needs that level of power, which simply isn't true. Just as many people find using PageMaker akin to cutting fingernails with pruning shears, Photoshop can be overkill. More the issue in the past, some feel, is that Color It has always been a low-brow Photoshop wanna-be in terms of marketing. Since it's cheaper, and has a cute name, it hasn't been taken as seriously in the design community (regardless of power), and the end result is that there aren't any books on Color It, and it's harder to find others using it who can provide tips on how to achieve certain effects, and so on. Perhaps that will change with MicroFrontier increasing the user base so significantly.
The offer is supposedly valid only in the U.S., but one person reported on the nets that he had no trouble ordering from Canada, so I suppose it's worth a try. They take MasterCard and Visa - no idea about other cards.
MicroFrontier -- 800/949-5555
P.O. Box 71190
Des Moines, IA 50325
A number of readers wrote in with more details regarding Spectrum Information Technologies, the company that hired John Sculley as CEO. Whether or not you like Sculley, under his leadership Apple grew at an incredible rate, so it might be worth watching Spectrum in the future.
Apparently, Spectrum works in the field of linking computers with cellular phones. They designed some of the current modem-to-cellular phone interfaces, including the Axcell, which Applied Engineering sells. The company is reportedly about to release a single-chip version of the Axcell device, which would enable other companies to easily add cellular interfaces to devices like the Newton and the PowerBooks.
Spectrum claims that its patents cover any link between cellular phones and modems, as well as any use of the wireless error correction protocols that necessary for handling noisy cellular connections or the pause when a cell handoff occurs. Like many technology companies with patents, Spectrum now claims that anyone who does anything similar infringes on that patent. The specifics are for high-priced lawyers to decide slowly, but I prefer to see companies compete on merit, not legalities. The first company to be dragged into the legal boxing ring is Microcom (the company that created the MNP protocols used in most modern modems), presumably over the MNP-10 error correction protocol, which Microcom created specifically for cellular connections.
In addition to all the legal nonsense, Spectrum had some doings on Wall Street last spring. Reportedly Spectrum issued a press release saying that they'd signed a deal with AT&T worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Spectrum stock shot up from around $3 to around $13 overnight, only to fall right back down when AT&T announced that the deal wasn't worth anywhere near that much. Irate shareholders immediately filed suit, and that lawsuit is still in progress. Their stock rose again for real when their patent was approved a month or so ago, and again when they announced that Sculley would become the CEO. Spectrum counts IBM and Rockwell International among its licensees.
Perhaps the most interesting part is that Sculley pushed the Newton heavily in his last months in control at Apple, and the Newton relies on wireless communication for much of its appeal beyond being a fancy DayTimer. Given that Sculley has close ties to the White House and that anything wireless must in some fashion go past the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), his actions make sense in that context.
-- Information from:
As many of you know, I suffer from a mild case of carpal tunnel syndrome, one of the many conditions collectively called repetitive stress injuries, or RSI. Although I haven't had too many queries on it (and thanks - the extra email is often hard to handle), some people have wondered how I managed to write a book without seriously damaging my hands. It's a good question, and in fact, I can say that my pain level has declined since I started the final chunks of the book after Macworld Boston. How? The Handeze gloves.
These $20 finger-less gloves are made from stretch Lycra subjected to a special process called "Med-A-Likra" that expands the individual fibers in a thread, thus reducing the space between threads and working better to hold body heat. The cuffs are double-layer Lycra and help keep the hand in a neutral position while allowing flexibility, unlike wrist braces. The strangest part of the gloves is that they only have four holes for the fingers - the middle finger and ring finger share an opening. I don't know the rationale for that design.
I saw them displayed at Macworld Boston, and being interested in anything related to RSI, asked the guys at the booth for more information. They talked about them for a while, then handed me a pair of them and a stack of photocopied letters of recommendation from satisfied users and doctors and reprints of magazine articles. "Just try them," they urged. So, when I started the home stretch of the book, I figured I had nothing to lose and started wore them. After a day or so of break-in time (the seams irritated my skin), I couldn't believe how little pain I had given how much I was typing, although I couldn't say why my hands felt better. In fact, I'm curious about how the design works at all.
The New England Therapeutic Research Group designed the gloves to help relieve pain in three specific ways - by providing warmth, support, and massage. I have poor circulation in my hands and feet so they're frequently cold. The gloves help warm my hands, although my fingers still get somewhat cold. The support makes sense - the gloves are form-fitting down to the Lycra cuffs, so you have to order the right size for your hands. In theory, the Lycra material massages your hands, although I'm not so sure about that. I suppose that the stretchy Lycra pulls on different parts of your hand as you move your fingers, so I guess that could count as massage.
I don't even play a doctor on the nets, but here's my devil's advocate analysis of those claims. As far as I'm aware, much current medical thought indicates that cold is better than heat for helping healing, no matter how much better heat may feel temporarily. Support too is nice, especially the way the gloves encourage your hands to remain in a neutral position, but compression could reduce blood flow to the hands, and blood flow is necessary to promote healing. Finally although there's seldom a problem with massage, it isn't obvious how the gloves manage to massage your hands.
The fact that I can't adequately explain the gloves is frustrating, because they're a stunning success for me. I don't care how they work, as long as they do, but intellectually I have doubts. Nevertheless, within three days, sitting down at the Mac without the gloves felt wrong, much like driving a car without wearing a seatbelt feels wrong to me. For whatever reason, I quickly became accustomed to the feeling.
The next test was to see how well they worked for Tonya, who has tendonitis, another RSI with a different origin. She ordered a pair in the right size (3) and ordered me another pair as well (I wear a size 4), and after avoiding them for a week or two because they felt too tight, started wearing them. Every night she came home with a glowing report of how much better her hands felt, and then one day she realized that she'd been wearing the pair she got for me, even though they were too large. We decided not to worry about it, but after another few days, the larger gloves stopped helping as much, so she moved down to the correct size, and they have made a tremendous difference for her.
Although ideal for computer users, the company that sells the gloves, Dome, notes that they have been used successfully by musicians, farmers, carpenters, seamstresses, and dentists, along with people in many other occupations susceptible to RSI. Although it may seem odd to wear gloves to write, it isn't in the slightest bit unusual for dentists to wear thin rubber gloves, for farmers to wear thick leather gloves, and so on. People wear gloves for many reasons, even some as specialized as swinging a baseball bat. In that sense, it doesn't feel out of place to put on gloves before I start typing in the morning.
You can supposedly machine wash the gloves if you're careful, but my first pair lost their elasticity in the cuffs, possibly due to that washing. I think I'll stick to hand washing for my newer pair, although I still wear the old ones a fair amount - the loose cuffs don't particularly bother me. Some of the seams have loosened slightly, and I had to mend one on the older pair. It's possible they were just a bum set, but with anything that you wear as much as I've worn these gloves, it's inevitable that they'll break down. I can live with that if they continue to make my hands feel better - I'll do a great deal to avoid the carpal tunnel surgery, which has a low success rate.
For the fashion conscious, the gloves come in two colors, a melanin-challenged flesh tone (which looks foolish to my eyes since, like many types of women's nylons, they're obviously a different color than skin) and a bluish-grey with dark blue cuffs. Neither is exciting, by any means, and I think Dome would do well to make some in bright colors and black, or add some minor frills. [I want black ones with black lace -Tonya] If you have to wear these gloves, why not make a statement other than "I look like a dork." I stick with the blue pair in public to assuage my vanity.
In the final evaluation, I can't say precisely why they work, although I can tell you that I seldom even touch the keyboard without them, and I like wearing them driving as well. They're cheap at about $20, and even if they don't work for you (I have no idea what the necessary variable for success might be), if you're experiencing hand and wrist pain, I think it's worth trying the Handeze gloves. As soon as you compare that $20 with the cost of disability, physical therapy, or even surgery, it shrinks rapidly. Do note that wearing the gloves doesn't allow you to otherwise abuse your body by not taking breaks or working in a destructive position, ergonomically speaking.
You must get the right size for your hand, and the sizing is best done on paper. So follow along, and if all else fails, call the Dome folks and ask them for help. Draw a two-inch vertical line on a piece of paper with a ruler and pencil. At the one-inch mark on that line, draw a five-inch perpendicular line to form a T on its side, making hash marks on it every half-inch. Place your right hand palm down on the paper with your first finger (the pointer finger) along the vertical line (so you can just see the line). Using your left hand, mark the right edge of your right hand on the horizontal line. Now measure the distance along the horizontal line from the vertical line to that mark you just made. If it falls between 2" and 2.5", you're a size 2. If it fall between 2.5" and 3", you're a size 3. If it falls between 3" and 3.5", you're a size 4. If it falls between 3.5" and 4", you're a size 5. And finally, if it falls between 4" and 4.5", you're a size 6. For the last three sizes, those measurements aren't quite accurate, so if you're just a bit over 3.5", you may still be in the 4 size range, and the same goes for sizes 5 and 6.
Dome -- 800/432-4352
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