Sep 92 Editorial
|Column Tag:||The Editor's Page
The mother of all Mac Shows?
By Neil Ticktin, Editor-in-Chief and Don Bresee, Technical Editor
Macworld Expo/Boston 92 was the latest in the Mitch Hall Associates series of Macintosh shows. Nothing earth shattering, but 50,000-60,000 people showed up anyway at the World Trade Center and Bayside Expo Center in Boston, Massachusetts, August 4-7.
Attendence was a bit lighter than in years past. But, on the other hand, this made it easier to walk in the aisles. The big chuckle of the show was that a seemingly new company, Focus, sponsored the shuttles between Bayside and World Trade. Focus had a large number of people wearing their t-shirts (including the bus drivers) and passing out carrying bags. If you asked these people who Focus was and what they did, none of them knew. So we all know that Focus exists, but have no idea why great marketing program guys! David says I'm going to be awfully embarrased when it turns out that Focus specializes in convention administration.
The most striking thing at the show was that Apple is trying to make a big splash in development related areas. There was session after session talking about MacApp, Bedrock, OCE, AppleScript, PowerPC, Client-Server Architecture, etc. Developers were fortunate enough to be able to interact with Steve Weyl, Apples Director of Developer Tools. More below.
The Macworld keynote was lead by Fred Forsyth, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Macintosh Hardware Division. His theme throughout was that Macintosh innovation has given people the tools to conquer challenges. He touched on concepts such as the Macintosh being the best platform for innovation, Apples new ecological production processes (the Brown box initiative to eliminate bleach and have no CFCs in any of their worldwide production facilities), and his view of Apples core strengths.
Fred felt that in the computing arena, Apple leads the way as far as ease of use, Multimedia, and individual empowerment. He stressed that Apple products will remain intuitive, so the old desktop metaphor is evolving into the intelligent agents metaphor, and Newton and future Macintosh evolutions will take advantage of the agent technology.
Apple will also be pushing hard on Multimedia. You should expect to see a CD-ROM Macintosh by the end of the year. Forsyth said, CD-ROM and multimedia - this time they really mean it. Some of you have heard this before. But trust us, we mean it this time. He also spoke about integrated tools and common frames of reference. QuickTime and Open Collaborative Environment (OCE) will be part of a base of tools that Apple will be providing to developers.
Finally, he spoke of individual empowerment defined as creating an environment where people can develop their potential to the fullest. The common thread throughout all of what Apple does is to give people a platform for innovation.
As part of the keynote and other Apple activities, we were shown the PowerBook 145, ShareVision, Magnet, At Ease, Morph, and new games by Walt Disney Computer Software.
The PowerBook 145 is the replacement for the 140 with the difference being a lower price and a 25 MHz 68030 processor. ShareVision is a video conferencing system (not yet shipping) that makes your Macintosh into a cooperative discussion environment. It gives you voice, video, and the ability for both ends to work on files in common applications such as Excel.
Magnet is used to reconcile files between computers (i.e., the PowerBook and your desktop machine). At Ease is a minifinder like interface which will be sold as a standalone retail product from Apple. This can be used to keep prying eyes out of areas you want to protect while still allowing you access. This is a great product for people who have computers at home and want to protect themselves from their kids.
One real QuickTime product shown at the keynote was Morph. Morph allows you to blend two QuickTime movies together. The example shown was of the three presidential candidates. Through Morph, the common features of these pictures (eyes, mouth, nose, etc ) were outlined. Then, Morph created a transition from one picture to the next and in one case showed a composite of what a candidate with features of all three would look like. This product is much easier shown than explained, but you get the idea. In any case, if you want to create some really interesting effects with QuickTime movies, you should look into Morph.
Finally, we were shown new fully animated adventure games from Interplay. Walt Disney Computer Software has also come out with their first game called Heaven & Earth. As you would expect, the animation in this game was excellent.
We all know about QuickTime and that Apple is making serious committments to it. In fact, Sculley has been heard to say that he expects people will know his name as much for QuickTime as they do for Macintosh. QuickTime is an extension from Apple designed to deal with time-based data (i.e., movies with sound).
The are three main components in QuickTime, and two are handled automatically for you. The Image Compression and Component Managers are used by the Movie Toolbox (below) to automatically compress the movie in the best way available (i.e., if hardware compression is available, it uses it, otherwise, it will use the best software compression available.). The third component is the Movie Toolbox which contains the necessary tools to open, load, and play movies in your program.
The bottom line here is that if you want to have time-based data like video with sound, QuickTime makes it easy for you to integrate this feature into your application. All you need to do is set up the movie, tell QuickTime which window and where in the window you want it, and then call QuickTimes routine to check for movie events in your main event loop.
As Apple moves further along the development cycle for the PowerPC, they are releasing more and more information about it. The most important news is the list of no-nos that you should watch out for in your code.
The significant code execution difference in PowerPC is that you will no longer have to load and execute code resources. The code will be contained in the data fork. There will also be changes in the floating point handling, but where it is going is not yet clear.
The main point to their message on running your current code on the PowerPC is that you have three choices - port the code, translate the code in binary form, or use a 680x0 emulator. The preference is from first to last, but obviously the time you as the developer will need to spend will correspond accordingly. You need to make the decision based on your particular situation.
In regards to porting the code, Apple issued some commandments for PowerPC compatibility. Among them are:
Use C and C++
Be sure to align your data structures
Dont depend on the 680x0 model (i.e., stacks, A5, segments, etc )
Dont intermix code and data
Isolate and minimize use of low memory
Isolate and minimize use of internal toolbox structures
Isolate and minimize use of 80-bit extended floating point numbers
They spoke about possible porting tools including one translation tool that would take binary 680x0 code to binary PowerPC code, but it would not be completely automatic. Obviously, the best possibility for speed gains on the new platform, will be to port your code. However, this will also involve the most work.
In addition to the translation tools, there will be a PowerPC emulation capability that will allow users to run Macintosh 680x0 software without any type of translation or port.
Apple has alluded to a plan to make it so that you can have single applications that will run on multiple platforms (i.e., PowerPC and 680x0 Macintosh). The way they would do this is by having the common code go in one file and the platform specific code reside in support files called by the common code. In addition, they spoke about fat binaries which would have both 680x0 code (in the resource fork) and PowerPC code (in the data fork) yielding a one-size-fits-all application.
Cross Platform Software Development
As all MacTutor readers know from last month, Apple and Symantec have announced a joint venture on a cross platform development system called Bedrock. Apple and Symantec took the opportunity at Macworld to talk a bit about what is happening and the timetable for the product.
For the developer, the Bedrock announcement means that if you havent already, you need to start learning about object-oriented programming. If you dont do this now, youll be behind the curve when Bedrock does hit the streets. It doesnt matter whether you are using MacApp or TCL, but it is important that you get the hang of using OOP and class libraries. Just to be clear, they said this over and over and over again. The reason for this is that you need to become used to writing an application that uses a framework that surrounds your application specific code. The framework deals with the toolbox for you by surrounding and insulating (or isolating per Tom [if you werent at this session, dont worry about it]) your specific code. This is in contrast to procedural environments where you would typically build your application specific code on top of a set of libraries. The framework approach is an all encompassing solution to the commonalities of application development and will hopefully eliminate much of the cut, copy, paste programming that you have done to date.
Apple and Symantec have now specifically said a couple of things about Bedrock. It will only support Windows and the Macintosh. It will only initially support C++. They will be shipping the first Bedrock products in the first half of 1993. They are working on solutions for translation tools, but the indication was to be prepared for rewrites, not automatic translations.
Finally, for those of you interested in getting on the Bedrock bandwagon early, there is a Bedrock Early Developer Program. Call Symantec at 408/446-8931 for more information. They will be looking for people in the fall of 1992.
Open Collaborative Environment (OCE)
OCE is a universal messaging system enabling a common user interface for messaging-type systems. This open environment gives developers the ability to provide the user with the appropriate interface to messaging systems (i.e., the one the user has installed). This technology is slated to ship by the end of 1992 (although there was and still may be confusion on this date). The nice part is that the application programmers interface (API) remains the same regardless of which underlying messaging system they are using. What does this mean? To the application developer, one API will support both users of QuickMail and Microsoft Mail and more importantly, users of both systems will be able to send messages to each other.
Under OCE, messages will have a type and creator which allows you to open a message in the same way you would open a document in the Finder. Part of the OCE benefit is the idea of shared information. For example, when there is a server, there will be a directory of all available destinations regardless of the messaging system (as long as they are OCE compliant). You will also be able to have personal directories for those destinations that you want to store locally. You can also have foreign directories for those destinations on non-OCE compliant systems.
As part of OCE, Apple will be providing tools for authentication and encryption of messages. Be aware that these features will only be available on networks with the appropriate server setups. What this means is that data is verified by checking two signatures which are generated at each end from the data in the message.
For some time, Apple has been making noise about their AppleScript product. Until recently, no one really knew what this was. Companies such as UserLand have been shipping scripting software for sometime. These scripting systems all have one thing in common - they rely heavily on AppleEvents.
In AppleEvents, there is the notion of AppleEvent suites which are event dictionaries common to a type of application. For example, there is the suite for databases, one for word processors, spreadsheets, etc These common AppleEvents are stored in a system dictionary. Each application can have its own private dictionary for AppleEvents that implement specific tasks, such as StuffIts stuff AppleEvent.
Now becoming scriptable is a whole other matter. To become AppleScript compatible you need to implement any AppleEvent that you want your program to respond to (i.e., close window, open file, etc ). To become AppleScript compliant (in other words, you want to use scripts in your application), you will need to redesign your application so that commands within your application are executed exclusively via AppleEvents. In other words, if you are going to close a window, instead of executing the code directly, you would post an AppleEvent to close the window. This way, the AppleScript Manager can watch what you are doing in order to give your application the ability to be fully scriptable. Why is this? Because if you want to record a sequence, it needs to be able to watch what the user is doing.
MacTutor Drawing Winners
MacTutor is pleased to announce the winners of the CD-ROM draw held at the MacWorld Exposition in Boston.
William Cashman of The Macintosh Advisor
Mark Marpet of Mark Marpet and Associates
Thomas Olsen of Olsen Business Services
Robert Harris of Digital Equipment Corporation
Congratulations to the winners and thanks to all of you who helped make the Exposition a resounding success.
Apples Big Push
Recently, and definitely at Macworld, Apple has been making a huge push on many development fronts. All of the announcements they have made sound good, now they just need to deliver.
There has been a lot of Apple bashing in the press regarding Apples plan for Bedrock and the transition process for those people using MacApp and TCL. Now, Apple bashing is one of my favorite things, but lets be fair, bashing needs to apply to fact, not rumor.
Now that the defense attorney has spoken, what should you do? Simple, voice your concerns in a constructive manner. This way, the people at Apple and Symantec will hear you and try to help. How do you do this? Write letters and send them to MacTutor. We have been making a concerted effort to make sure that the important people at Apple are reading MacTutor. So you write, well print, theyll read its that simple.
The Publisher's column
By David Williams, Publisher
A small, boutique magazine such as this cannot exist without a significant dialogue with the readers. So, for the past several issues, Neil and I have been writing these columns in ways designed to elicit comments from our readers and from industry leaders. Initially we asked politely. Then, we threatened humorously. Finally, we wrote nonsense, hoping someone would leap to fill in the gap with a real debate. We have been only marginally successful.
Weve received a small number of the usual negative comments. One reader interpreted my teasing Neil about his new equipment fetish as being us airing our disputes in public. Another thought we were serious about our threats of centerfolds in lieu of reader response. One reader felt that we should pack the whole thing in because there were spelling mistakes in our columns and elsewhere. And one thought that my political views were genuine (too bad Ross quit, ruined a perfectly good column). In some cases, where there was mean-spirited name-calling, in the true spirit of free enterprise, we have cancelled their subscriptions. For the others, we have written back to explain.
On the other hand, we have received a small number of gracious responses that made the whole thing worthwhile. In the course of these exchanges, we have encountered new friends, formed new business relationships, and learned a great deal. We have received enough material to rename the letters section as the Dialogue Box, as youll see in this issue. As youll also see, we arent getting enough of the kind of letters that can be used to start a real policy level debate.
So, the question is, how do we respond? The answer, we thought, must be to do something truly outrageous. We pondered. We pondered some more. Finally, we asked Neils wife. Audrey said that maybe there was nothing that Mac developers were really concerned about, but that we should check with a comparable journal for PCs to see what they were doing. We did more than check. We invited a leader of the PC world to do an interview on what she sees as the great issues in the computer industry today. Thankfully, she said yes, and so my column next month (or the month after) will consist of an interview with Terry Meyers, founder and President of Quarterdeck Office Systems.
Thats right, a PC person. Quarterdeck makes Desqview, QEMM, Manifest, and other products which are highly regarded, frequently win Editors Choice awards, and sell like hotcakes, as their stock price shows. In the past, Terry has fought wars against some of the industry giants, including Microsoft, and so far, has been winning. With IBM heading away from DOS via joint ventures with Apple, Terrys view of the future of personal computing promises to be fascinating. So, having placed a PC mogul in the middle of a Mac magazine, we now make this limited-time offer: If you have questions, send them in at once. There is very little time between your receipt of one issue and printing the next.