1992 Fools: TidBITS#114/01-Apr-92
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From:         "Adam C. Engst" <ace@tidbits.halcyon.com>
Subject:      TidBITS#114/01-Apr-92
To:           Multiple recipients of list TIDBITS <TIDBITS@RICEVM1>
 This week we've got more Microsoft corporate deal news, and it's
   not even as strange as Apple and IBM. Tune in also for a new
   method of protecting all your data from harm and a new program
   that could eventually replace the Finder. Finally, for those of
   you with compact Macs, there may still be hope for keeping up
   with the Gateses and the Sculleys.
 Copyright 1990-1992 Adam & Tonya Engst. Non-profit, non-commercial
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 ace@tidbits.halcyon.com -- CIS: 72511,306 -- AOL: Adam Engst
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    Remote Backup
    Microsoft & NeXT?
    Future Finder
    New Life for Old Macs
[Archived as /info-mac/digest/tb/tidbits-114.etx; 29K]
  Ralph Amundesen wrote with some interesting information about IBM.
  Evidently, IBM is so worried about OS/2 that the company has
  expanded its battalion of salesbots by drafting the entire
  company. I don't know if this will go as far as dark-suited IBM
  folks out pounding the pavement ("Excuse me, Ma'am, may I come in
  and demonstrate what OS/2 2.0 can do for you today?"), but all
  344,000 employees are in it for fun and prizes.  It's a step up
  from grade school, but IBM employees could win medals, IBM
  software, IBM hardware, or even cold hard cash. I sure hope they
  don't stop in here since I don't have 30 MB free under SoftPC to
  test it. Sheesh, wouldn't you think it would be easier to just buy
  a few TV spots like Microsoft is doing?
  Information from:
    Ralph Amundesen -- rna4637@afdnet.uucp
Remote Backup
  I'm beginning to like living in a metropolitan area - there's so
  much more happening here in terms of computers. At a local
  computer fair put on by the University of Washington a few weeks
  ago, I came across a small local company with a product that could
  become extremely popular with anyone who doesn't like losing data.
  All hands in favor? :-)
  This company, BackData, was formed when a couple of guys from some
  of the local computer companies were sitting around eating Thai
  food (or so they say - apparently Thai food is a big thing in the
  computer community here in Seattle). They were talking about
  losing data and how seldom people really backed up their entire
  hard disks, even when they understood the potential consequences.
  Lots of people don't back up at all, and a significant number only
  backup up important files, thinking that it will be easy enough to
  rebuild a hard drive from original master disks.
  People who work on the important file backup method are depending
  on two things to make the rebuild easy. First, they hope that they
  can find and successfully restore programs from all those floppy
  disks, some of which may have gone bad in the years since they
  were last used. Second and more importantly, they rely on their
  backups surviving the unlikely event of a fire or theft. Another
  problem is that people seldom realize how much time they spend
  customizing their systems, and it can take a number of hours to
  get a system back to the way it should be. This is often even the
  case when reformatting and restoring from a complete backup.
  So the BackData guys realized that the best possible option is for
  all the data on your hard disk to be backed up automatically at
  night to another physical place. Short of hiring elves, the only
  way to do this is via modem, but with some of the current high-
  speed modems and sophisticated pieces of software out there, they
  figured that it would be possible with a bunch of Macs and a lot
  of storage devices.
  The system as they have it currently set up runs on headless LCs
  and saves all the data to 2.6 GB DAT drives. Each of the LCs has a
  fast modem attached (they have several different types so you can
  call specific numbers depending on what modem you have). In terms
  of software, you just need AppleTalk Remote Access and Retrospect
  1.3, which can back up any volume mounted on its desktop.
  I haven't tried this yet, but the theory is that at some point in
  the middle of the night one of their backup Macs calls your Mac
  (which had better be on). A simple macro ensures that all your
  volumes are mounted read-only on their systems, and then
  Retrospect goes to work, backing up only the files that have
  changed according to specific selectors that you set up
  previously. This allows you to avoid backing up your System file
  all the time, even though it will almost always be marked as
  modified whether or not you've added any fonts or sounds. Once the
  backup is done, another macro copies the catalog file to your hard
  disk (so you can see what was backed up), dismounts your volumes,
  and disconnects the modems to finish the process.
  It doesn't really matter how long this takes since it's at night,
  or at least it wouldn't matter if you weren't being charged for
  all this. The BackData people have to make some money too. The
  full kit, which includes AppleTalk Remote Access, Retrospect 1.3,
  and a fast modem (I think they're using the cheap new ones from
  Supra now, but that's subject to change) will run about $800,
  although you can obviously buy the parts separately. Then there's
  a connect time charge of $10/hour, which is fairly comparable to
  many online services. Depending on the amount of data that you
  modify each day and the speed of your modem, you could get away
  with spending fifty cents to a couple of dollars per call. It
  wouldn't be economical at 2400 bps, but if you could keep it down
  to a six minute call each day, that's only a dollar per day, or
  $365 per year, which isn't all that expensive in comparison to
  buying your own hardware and software for backup. In addition, the
  various pieces of the setup are all useful for other things as
  well, so it's an extremely worthwhile combination.
  Retrieval is a slightly stickier issue. Essentially, the process
  works in reverse, with one important exception. You call them and
  make sure your DAT tape is in the drive of a Mac at a certain
  phone number. After your Mac calls the storage Mac, you then run
  Retrospect over the remote connection, since it won't be able to
  see the DAT drive otherwise. BackData doesn't expect everyone to
  want to do this, and if you have to restore the entire hard disk
  the phone charges may run pretty high. So for a standard
  consulting fee of $50/hour, BackData will send someone over to
  your office or home and will perform the restore there, helping to
  reformat the hard disk and do whatever else needs to be done to
  get you up and running.
  I expressed some doubt about the reliability of cobbling together
  these off-the-shelf programs, and the BackData folks admitted that
  they're in the process of writing several dedicated programs that
  will automate the process much more cleanly, one for DOS and one
  for the Mac. Their programs didn't sound as though they'd be as
  flexible as Retrospect, but would work much more cleanly over the
  phone lines, especially with restoring data. Interesting concept
  this, and one which could eventually go national with an 800
  number. It's basically a form of insurance, but one which could
  save a lot of important data in the event of disaster.
    BackData -- info@backdata.com
  Information from:
    BackData propaganda & representatives
Microsoft & NeXT?
  Microsoft is just full of surprises these days. First Fox, what
  could be NeXT? The latest news from Redmond is that Mr. Bill has
  apparently overcome his dislike of Steve Jobs and the company will
  be porting its most popular applications to the NeXT. This move,
  which Microsoft and NeXT haven't announced publicly yet, makes a
  fair amount of sense for both companies but is rather surprising
  given Mr. Bill's words of several years ago linking the
  combination of Microsoft and NeXT with frost warnings in the
  nether worlds.
  As I said, though, the announcement makes a good deal of sense if
  you look at it closely. It's obviously positive from NeXT's
  perspective. The technically-neat NeXT workstations have suffered
  not from a lack of decent software, but from a lack of decent
  software from big name companies. There's Improv from Lotus as
  well as the ubiquitous word processor from WordPerfect, but not a
  lot else from the biggies. Jobs may be pushing the NeXT as the
  ideal custom application machine for business, but big business
  doesn't like to buy extra special-purpose machines and would like
  to have Excel and Word running on those NeXTs as well. After all,
  no one was ever fired for buying Microsoft, but NeXT is still
  another story.
  What's in it for Microsoft, though? A good question, since
  Microsoft makes most of its money on operating systems and it
  certainly won't sell so many versions of Excel and Word for the
  NeXT to really recoup the development costs, low as they may
  because of the ease of developing in NeXTstep.
  I've heard rumors in and around the deal that Microsoft will gain
  some rights to the NeXTstep environment, which is the main
  incentive for them. It's a known fact that the kernel in Windows
  NT is a close relative to the kernel in Mach, the Unix variant
  used by NeXT, so it could be rather easy to port NeXTstep to NT.
  It may simply be worthwhile for Microsoft to gain the several
  years of real world experience that NeXT's developers have
  invested in NeXTstep. Heck, if it's worth trying with Fox, it's
  worth trying with NeXT and it's probably cheaper too.
  Let's face it, Windows is by no means a penultimate graphical
  interface, and in fact, it's poor in a lot of ways. The suit with
  Apple may not help in that regard. But, look, here's NeXT which
  needs some credibility in the business world and has a snazzy
  graphical interface that leaves Windows in the dust. Microsoft can
  provide the first and needs the second.
  Another factor we can't overlook is the faltering ACE initiative,
  since there are so many members, each with an individual agenda.
  It's hard to merge the interests of divergent but major players
  like Silicon Graphics (which I believe just bought MIPS), DEC,
  Compaq, and Microsoft, and Microsoft is certainly not one to put
  all its eggs in the same ACE basket. Apple and IBM ruled
  themselves out as allies by creating Taligent to compete directly
  with the future Microsoft, and Sun as usual is doing its own
  thing. The only semi-major player left is NeXT, and everyone
  admits that for all NeXT's marketing mistakes, they've got a great
  combination of an excellent graphical interface and a good Unix
  implementation. Everyone was astonished by the Apple/IBM deal, and
  in many ways this proposed deal isn't even as radical, although it
  could have even more far-reaching implications for the industry.
  Information from:
Future Finder
  Are you happy with the Finder? Most people like it a fair amount,
  and there's people who would die before using anything else like
  DOS. But let's face it, the Finder is far from perfect, and even
  Apple knows it. Unfortunately for Apple, one of their original
  human interface gurus, Bruce Tognazzini (better known as TOG, and
  author of "TOG on Interface") has reportedly just departed for
  I don't mean to imply that the Finder is dead or dying, but from
  some plans that I've heard, it will have some real competition in
  about a year. Keisuke Hara, the author of a slick Finder-
  replacement DA called MaxFiles, is hard at work on a new program
  that will truly replace the Finder, something no other program has
  ever successfully done. It's not a trivial project, and Hara does
  not expect to finish any time soon, but here are some of the
  highlights from our discussions of his new Finder-replacement,
  currently called FileMax.
File database
  Perhaps the main problem with the Finder is that it tries to be
  too many things to too many people. Whenever that happens, people
  become disappointed. At its base level, the Finder is a database,
  one that keeps track of the many files and folders on your hard
  disk and the various attributes that each of those files and
  folder have. On top of that database sits a graphical shell for
  working with database records (the files). That term, "working
  with" is intentionally general because so many of the Finder's
  functions seem to be rather tacked on at the end without much
  thought for how they should really act. A classic example of this
  is the awkward method of dismounting a floppy by dragging it to
  the trash.
  So the first thing that FileMax will have is an extremely fast
  database engine that will work with the current Desktop file(s) so
  you can always go back to the Finder if you wish. Most people will
  never mess with the database engine of FileMax simply because it
  doesn't really do all that much different from the current Finder
  database engine. The main difference is that FileMax will be
  completely wired with AppleEvents so that other programmers can
  extend the functionality of the Finder quickly and easily by
  hooking into the various events.
New interface ideas
  This is where we get into the more interesting proposals for
  FileMax. To solve the Finder problem with dragging floppies to the
  trash, FileMax will have a DiskBox that holds aliases to all your
  floppies. (Actually this DiskBox idea is in the process of being
  implemented for System 7 already by an enterprising shareware
  author - look for it soon.) When you want to dismount a floppy,
  you simply drag it to your DiskBox icon, which is actually a tiny
  program. That program ejects the disk and saves an alias of the
  contents of that disk so that you can find its files easily later
  on. Speaking of finding files, FileMax will have a more powerful
  Find command than currently exists in the Finder today, most
  notably in that you can create what are called "collections" of
  files with the results. So if you find all your MacWrite documents
  that haven't changed in two years you can create a collection of
  them (which is optionally either the original files or a bunch of
  temporary aliases) and then do whatever you want with that
  Aliases will be much improved in FileMax. If you want to create
  one, merely hold down the command key and drag the appropriate
  icon where you want the alias to be, much like option-dragging
  copies a file now. FileMax will also be better about making the
  aliases work exactly like the originals, even in places they don't
  right now. For instance, Get Info... on an alias now does not
  allow you to work on the original file, which is the main reason
  you would use Get Info on an alias in the first place.
  Still, this stuff is interesting, but not that radical. There are
  a few radical concepts in FileMax which may become extremely
  popular. The first is what's called a "super folder." It's a
  normal folder in which you put a set of files, then you set a
  "super folder" bit in the Get Info, and the folder no longer opens
  when you double-click on it. Instead, it runs all the applications
  contained inside and opens all the documents. Option-double-
  clicking would open the folder like a normal folder for editing of
  the contents. This feature could be especially handy for reducing
  the massive clutter that now comes with many applications. In
  addition, programs that are stupid about the locations of their
  support files like Word 5.0 (the Word Commands folder has to be at
  the same folder level as Word 5.0 itself) could simply be combined
  in a single super folder and ignored. Finally, it would be trivial
  to set up work sets of various applications and documents by
  storing aliases to the various files in different super folders.
  Balloon help was a neat idea, but frankly, Apple implemented it
  badly. Most people who realize that it's there turn it on briefly
  and then turn it off, and even if you want to use it on occasion,
  you're still insulted with the balloon popping up as you select
  Hide Balloons. FileMax will have balloon help too, but will also
  have a Control Panel for setting the equivalent of a user level.
  So if I consider myself to be a level three user out of a possible
  five, I would only see the balloons that are coded for more
  advanced users. There is also an exception rule for the first time
  you see something, since a simple control might need explanation,
  but only once. Like some of the shareware and freeware utilities,
  FileMax's balloon help will also be easy to toggle with a key.
  Perhaps most interesting though, will be the replacement of the
  Get Info dialog box with an editable balloon when you are pointing
  at a particular icon. This will let you view and edit comments and
  click the locked and stationery bits without having to select the
  file, choose a menu item, and then close the Get Info window when
  you're done. That's way too clumsy.
New SFDialog
  I wrote above about the concept of the collection in terms of
  dealing with the set of found files. FileMax actually will take
  the concept of the collection further yet, patching the System in
  an area which isn't generally handled by the Finder. One of the
  oldest and most outdated parts of the Macintosh interface is the
  Standard File Dialog because it was designed for 128K Macs running
  a single application on a small screen. FileMax uses a simple
  modeless (in contrast to modal, which means that you have to exit
  that mode, i.e. close the dialog, before you can do anything else)
  dialog displaying a collection of files and any application-
  specific features like file-type selection buttons. The collection
  is displayed in an outline mode reminiscent of the Finder's
  outline mode in System 7, but much faster and with all the volumes
  as the top level. What differentiates this collection from a
  normal outline is that it respects the application's wishes in
  terms of which files to display, and since it's modeless, you can
  use FileMax's Find function or any other function while in that
  collection. It also features two special folders at the top of the
  outline hierarchy, Recent and Permanent, which track recently-
  accessed and permanent files and folders, much as Super  Boomerang
  and ShortCut do. Saving is slightly different, because you have to
  assign a name and location to your file. At the top of the outline
  is the name of the current folder (which is also indicated
  graphically in the outline list but you can shrink the whole thing
  so you don't have to look at the outline) and a text entry box for
  the filename. Alongside is a Save button which is grey when no
  changes have been made. Since this Save dialog is modeless, it's a
  single click to save your file at any time. Save As is simply a
  matter of changing the name or location and saving again. I'm
  drooling for this one, and I'm sure it will become even smoother
  before release.
Other tweaks
  Because FileMax will be completely wired with AppleEvents and is
  totally modular, some obvious openings for products appear. Many
  of you miss the Finder Sounds hack that went away with Finder 6
  because Apple removed the sound hooks in Finder 7. That, along
  with the custom icon family features of SunDesk which stopped
  working in Finder 7, will both be back in FileMax. The
  possibilities for additional customization, even with something
  like UserLand's Frontier event scripting program, are endless.
  Other little tweaks that will please the die-hard Mac user include
  much faster copying of files (done by another small application in
  the background if desired, as in DiskDoubler), stable file
  comments, iconization of open applications, drag & drop printing,
  and an outline list view that starts with the mounted volumes,
  which does not cut off long files names, and which allows you to
  customize the order of the fields, so if you want to have name
  followed immediately by label, date, then size, so be it. One
  thing that's not in FileMax is a hierarchical Apple menu, or an
  Apple menu at all. Instead FileMax will have a resizable floating
  palette that will list whatever the user wants to put in it,
  including running applications. One interesting feature of this
  palette is that it can turn itself into a menu if the user drags
  it up to the menu bar, satisfying both the big screen and the
  small screen users.
  I've talked a lot about what this program will do, based on
  various discussions, but to tell the truth, I don't think this
  program will ever make it to market. I see no reason why Apple
  won't just hire Hara and buy the rights because it's easier than
  allowing a third-party shell like FileMax to become common in the
  marketplace, something Apple doesn't really want to happen because
  it would hurt the Mac in terms of consistency. I also suspect that
  the Apple system software teams will realize that FileMax embodies
  a lot of good ideas, probably helped along by many people who have
  thought long and hard about what's wrong with the current
  Macintosh system software. I would certainly hope that they would
  be able to accept external input into what's right and wrong with
  the Finder and modify it to make it both easier and far more
  powerful at the same time.
  Information from:
    Kiesuke Hara, MaxFiles author
New Life for Old Macs
  As long as we're trying to get people to raise their hands this
  issue, how many of you out there have a compact Mac and would like
  to upgrade it? I thought so. If you've got a Classic you can go to
  a Classic II, and if you're the proud owner of an SE, you might be
  able to find an SE/30 upgrade lying around at some dealer's back
  room. Otherwise you're out of luck, or maybe not...
  We've heard some rumors of a project at Apple called Phoenix
  that's one of those labors of love carried out under the very
  noses of the Grinch-like  bean counters. A group of Apple
  engineers decided that it was a shame that everyone with an older
  compact Mac was stuck with it, more or less, especially since
  Apple seems to be relegating the compact Macs to the low end of
  the product line. So they set to work designing an upgrade in
  their spare time (where do these people get that kind of spare
  time anyway?) and by the time the managers noticed and told them
  to cut it out and get some real work done, the Phoenix project was
  already pretty cool. It's not definite yet, but some of the ideas
  the Phoenix team came up with are being considered seriously
  enough that we might live to see the day that an ex-128K Mac can
  run System 7.
  The basic idea behind this upgrade is that the motherboards in
  these machines are old and relatively useless. However, since
  Apple has made such strides in miniaturizing the motherboard
  components, the Phoenix team was able to design a universal
  compact Mac motherboard and some extra hardware for each specific
  model to make sure it fits in correctly. The case too is a
  problem, so they came up with a universal compact case to replace
  the old ones, but most of the other components like the screen and
  power supply and internal supports are re-used. Needless to say,
  this is not the sort of thing you can install at home, and it
  probably won't be incredibly cheap.
  Since the Phoenix team never imagined that their work would ever
  see the light of day at Apple, they went all out in designing the
  new motherboard. Rather than cripple the machine with a narrow
  data path, they made sure it was a true 32-bit machine with a 25
  MHz 68030, and even included a coprocessor. Along with all the
  standard ports, they added a video out port and some internal
  video RAM so the Phoenix Mac can run two monitors without an
  additional card. Like the rumored new monitor that includes
  speakers and microphones, the Phoenix Mac will have two internal
  microphones and a much better speaker than was in the original
  But what about slots? There was no obvious way to fit a card into
  the different internal superstructures of the various compact
  Macs. Rather than just give up on the idea of providing a PDS or
  NuBus slot, the Phoenix team took an idea from the now-defunct
  Jasmine. At one point, Jasmine marketed a drive called something
  like the Backpack, which attached to the back of the Mac and took
  up very little room. So the Phoenix team designed a slot adapter
  like the one in the IIsi and put a pop-out in the back of the case
  to access it, much as the SE and SE/30 have.
  Like the IIsi, you don't have to buy the backpack-style card case
  unless you want to add an extra PDS or NuBus card (both can be
  supported). If you do want to add one, you can just buy the card
  case and your card, open the card case, install the card, and then
  attach the whole thing to the Mac. It's the same general idea as
  the NuBus extenders from Second Wave, but since it fits snugly on
  the back of the redesigned case, it's easy to travel with or swap
  from machine to machine.
  From what we've heard, the Apple honchos liked the concept of the
  card case for the compact Macs, but they were even more taken with
  the concept of using a card case with a PowerBook. The PowerBook
  would have to have a new connector to the motherboard, so it
  wouldn't work with the existing ones, but such a solution would be
  cheaper and easier than the proposed (and now delayed, perhaps
  indefinitely) docking station. Since most people aren't likely to
  want more than video out, which the new PowerBooks will have, and
  one card, perhaps an Ethernet card, the card case is ideal, not to
  mention quite easily transported along with the PowerBook.
  There were apparently a few extra neat ideas in the original work
  the Phoenix team was doing (if it's anything like Seattle, they
  probably did most of this stuff in a Thai restaurant). One of the
  best, though not one which received a lot of support at the
  management level was a stand-alone LCD screen based on the active-
  matrix display in the PowerBook 170. (Interestingly, Dolch
  Computer Systems just released a color LCD projection panel that
  can double as a stand-alone screen for a mere $8500.) They
  originally wanted to put it, or a color active-matrix display,
  into the upgraded compact Macs, but decided that it would be way
  too expensive. As a stand-alone though... How much would you pay
  for a nice 640 x 480 active matrix screen with backlighting? I'd
  certainly like one for my system and would consider it up to about
  $700. Just think, if you had a six-slot Mac and a spot of extra
  cash you could set up a grid of six active matrix panels side by
  side. Since they don't interfere with each other like normal
  monitors do, it could be a single desk-sized desktop, say 1920 x
  960 or more likely 1280 x 1440. That's a lot of pickles, er,
  I'm still surprised that the Phoenix team's work wasn't ignored at
  Apple. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that Apple is
  going to be putting out these three operating systems for the Mac,
  the fancy new version of the current MacOS, the upgraded version
  of A/UX known as PowerOpen, and whatever Taligent makes of Pink.
  They claim that those operating systems will be scalable to all
  Macs, but I doubt a Mac Plus will be able to handle it. This
  Phoenix upgrade gets Apple out of a jam (or would that be a
  butter?) by ensuring that anyone can upgrade to a Mac capable of
  all the neat new voice and handwriting technologies and the
  operating systems behind them. Of course, as Murph Sewall says at
  the top of his Vaporware Digest, "These are rumors, folks. We
  reserve the right to be wrong." Just because you read it in
  TidBITS doesn't mean that it's going to happen (but this upgrade
  has our vote!).
    Dolch Computer Systems -- 408/957-6575
  Information from:
  Related articles:
    MacWEEK -- 30-Mar-92, Vol. 6, #13, pg. 1, 18
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