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Boston MacWorld '91
By Kirk Chase, Editor
MacWorld 91 in Boston was an interesting experience. Many System 7 savvy balloons could be found, but fewer System 7 savvy products. Multimedia products were in full swing, including QuickTime (off the convention floor). There wasnt very many surprises for developers. Even Apples booth looked boring. Here is a quick rundown on some of the highlights.
Products in View
MacWorld was itching with promise for the developer community. Most products being shown were still in beta form, but they included System 7.0 savvy features. There were a few shipping products, however among the soon to be released ones. Here is a sampling of both.
THINK Pascal 4.0; THINK C 5.0; THINK Reference
10201 Torre Ave.
Cupertino, CA 95014-2132
Symantec came out with not just one release, but three product releases, two new and one about a month old. Symantec went and extensively rewrote THINK C 5.0 as well as updating THINK Pascal to version 4. THINK C has added a multi-pass, optimizing compiler, and the debugger now remembers data and break points between runs. They have included System 7 support in both languages, and both run in 24/3-bit modes with or without virtual memory. The THINK Class library was updated as well. Users can upgrade for $89 (C) and $69 (Pascal).
THINK Reference is a beautifully implemented product. It is a developer reference application which contains the calls, technotes, and miscellaneous information corresponding with Inside Macintosh Vols. I-V. Meant to run under MultiFinder, this application (256K with a database of around 2M bytes) will shrink down when not needed, allows for bookmarks and dozens of ways to search the information. Unfortunately, due to the hyperlinks, this product is not easily updatable, which will be needed to add volume VI. An excellent product that makes SpInside Macintosh and other online manuals look like a snails in comparison.
Spectral Innovations, Inc.
4633 Old Ironsides Dr., Suite 401
Santa Clara, CA 95054
I imagine the people at Spectral Innovations have not been sleeping lately. They have been busy integrating their digital signal processing technology into many environments. For example, they have teamed up with Letraset to create Lightning Effects for ColorStudio 1.5; these annexes take advantage of Spectral Innovations DSP accelerator hardware to get 20-40x speed improvements over Mac IIs without the board. MATLAB is being bundled with MacDSP to provide high performance number crunching.
Spectral Innovations was also showing the MacDSP MB/A. This NuBus board has a 60 MHz AT&T WE® DSP32C digital signal processor capable of performing 30 MFLOPS. An on-board 68000 performs all NuBus transfers, and the board supports A/ROSE. This board is packed with features, so I recommend you getting in touch with them if youre doing large numeric computations such as those used in multimedia and other DSP projects.
PO Box 9
Lincoln Center, MA 01773
Bowers Development will soon be coming out with a new release of AppMaker. This new version will be a significant improvement on the limitations of current version. System 7 support, like Apple Events and Stationary Aware, will be added to make your life a little easier. Text styles and better code generation will also be there. And, very soon in the future, you can look for simulation with AppMaker documents.
SpaceMaker; Programmers Assistants
Aladdin Systems, Inc.
Deer Park Center, Suite 23A-171
Aptos, CA 95003-4723
Aladdin Systems has been busy also. Their next versions of Programmers Assistants (version 2) will be 7.0 compatible and even make some of their functions behave better. While offering the usual bug fixes, the assistants now offer online help. These little tools help make debugging a little easier.
A new product that is in the works is SpaceMaker. Like SuperDisk from Alysis, SpaceMaker will automatically compress/decompress files on-the-fly giving you the extra hard disk space you need while not taking up time for its conversions. It is fast, and it does compact. You get rapid speeds with about 50% savings on disk space. As an added feature, you can automatically create StuffIt archives and self-extracting archives by appending .sit and .sea, respectively. Compression is coming of age.
1400 East Southern Ave.
Tempe, AZ 85282
Hobbyists, in-house developers, and the like, there is now cause to rejoice. CYMA has taken up production of CAUSE. This simple environment allows database applications to be created with just a little effort. CAUSE is a graphical development environment that makes programming an ease. Although you may not want to use it for power-house database applications, CAUSE contains many features to let you develop quickly.
2745 Dutch Village Rd., Suite 200
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3L 4G7
TGS Systems has come out with a MAJOR upgrade to Prograph that has really got me excited. Version 2.5 is packed with new features. There is support for high-level System 7 events and IAC. There is a database application generator which will handle just about any object type as well as support for SQL databases. A code compactor is added to shrink methods to 25% of their original size. And there is a suite of add-on products for linking Pascal, C, and FORTRAN libraries. Tthere are more features than I have space to write here. Look for a review of Prograph 2.5 soon.
Cheshire Grin Productions LTD
2145 Sherobee Road, Suite 43
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada L5A 3G8
Stack Enhancers is a unique set of tools for HyperCard 2.0. There are many attractive packages which can be installed and removed by simple installers that come with the product. No knowledge of scripting is needed for the novice, but it has features even a developer would like.
For example, the Bookmark System allows users to place visual bookmarks on individual cards; navigating back to that card is as easy as clicking on the bookmark. For more navigation as well card information, there is the Browser Palette. And installation of the Progress Gauge gives stacks a scroll bar. This remarkable collection has items you would see in professional stacks, aids in stack creation, and is very simple to use.
Conferences in View
The developers track at MacWorld Expo in Boston contained a number of old and new sessions. Here are just some of the highlights.
IAC Issues and Answers
Now that System 7 is out, Inter-Application Communication is becoming a reality, although there are very few applications that take advantage of being scriptable. This session looked at some of the products now being developed for creating and running scripts. The creators of Frontier, Control Tower, and QuickKeys were there to share their insights into IAC.
One thought brought up was the Object Model vs. the user-terminology resources. Basically, Apples object model of verb-noun was viewed as perhaps too broad and, although quite powerful, was geared toward object oriented programming. The three IAC champions pushed for user-terminology resources; this means putting the vocabulary that you understand as a set of resources that any application or user may be able to read and understand how to use.
Another issue brought up was the passing of functionality rather than data. For example, a spell checker has to deal with thousands of words. To pass these words back and forth from the word processor to the spell checker application involves heavy traffic especially if run across a network. Passing functionality would involve passing the spell check engine across the network instead of the words to be checked.
As to all the complexities of IAC, the big guys know how hard it is. Frontier will be out in October, just now going into beta, and Michael Odawa is shipping a developers version of Control Tower. These will be needed for testing your IAC products. And as Don Brown said, A little IAC is better than none.
Keeping the Bugs Out
This session was on debugging. A number of helpful suggestions on how to go about trouble shooting your code and how to keep your code from being shot down were discussed. A number of products are out or being released to help in this area. EvenBetterBusError is an INIT for tracking down those NIL pointers and handles. The Leaks dcmd as well as the ZapHandles dcmd are useful in tracking memory allocation/deallocation problems. Their were also a couple of demos of TMON Professional and Jasiks Debugger.
Best of MacHack
This session was much improved over its last session in San Francisco. Unfortunately all the testing on the INITs and hacks were done on machines other than the IIfx they were being demonstrated on, and so there were a number of crashes, and the winning hack never did make it up and running. However, there were a number of interesting hacks that kept everyone on their seats.
One System 7 hack was DTPrinter; just drag what you wanted printed over to this icon, drop, and DTPrinter would launch the documents to their respective applications for printing. Another System 7 hack was Alias This; By dropping and object on this icon in the Finder, an alias would be made and placed in the Apple Menu folder to appear in the Apple Menu. Related to this was droppleMenu which did the same if the icon was dragged and dropped on the Apple Menu. Cool LW was an interesting hack by Byron Han that allowed Chooser selection of printers in the Print Dialog. The Grouch INIT was finally made a standalone application; it seems kids were throwing away all sorts of things to see the Grouch. And finally for the practical joker, DOSsHELL brought up an ugly DOS screen when the Mac was turned on, but only stayed until a mouseclick occurred.
MacHack has been around now for six years. It is like summer camp. It allows you to talk to a number of industry famous people about your ideas. Many of the ideas discussed at the World Wide Developers Conference are discussed. The next one will be June 16-20, 1992 in Ann Arbor, MI. You can get more information from ExpoTech at 313-882-1824.
The Ins and Outs of INITs
This vetran session has always been a wealth of information and guidelines for writing these simple, yet powerful pieces of code, and this session was no different. INITs are very dangerous pieces of code, and Chris Derrossi of Apple said that soon an Apple document, perhaps in the form of a technote, would be out to make your INITs more robust. Another major point brought out was that INITs should check for only those features that they need and not for specific system versions; it was hinted that there might be future versions of System 7 which may not include all the features that are on the current version (a scaled-down , single-floppy version perhaps).
Brought out in the session was InitInfo stack by Baseline Publishing (1770 Moriah Woods Blvd., Ste 14, Memphis, TN 38117-7118). This stack has detailed descriptions of practically every INIT in existence. This is a must for every person who would like to know more about the INITs in his system and how they operate. This might save a lot of headaches later when you come across an INIT conflict.
MacTutor Live! covered a number of subjects. Neil Tictin was there to talk about Neuron Datas Open Look; this cross-platform product is a high-end GUI design and code generation product allowing developers to do their designing for multiple platforms, but like I said, it is a high-end product with a high-end price tag. Tim Cotter of Delta Tao, the Color Mac Cheese people, talked about CopyDeepMask() and all the things you could do with it, along with techniques for anti-aliasing. John May, author and president of Devil Mountain Development, discussed CDEFs and how to debug them with source level debuggers. I myself talked on resources to get you started and finished with your Mac development product. As usual, we also gave a number of prizes away at the end.