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Nov 92 Letters
Volume Number:8
Issue Number:7
Column Tag:Dialogue Box

Dialogue Box

Naturally Right Languages

I have a few comments on the new MacTutor in addition to saying that I am glad to be getting a favorite magazine again. I was put off by some comments by Chuq Von Rospach in the Sept. issue Dialogue Box. Do not drop Lisp, Fortran, Forth etc. Sometimes good ideas just seem natural in the right language.

Some of us amateurs still want to know about the nuts and bolts level of programming especially on the Macintosh. What made the first volumes, and the current volume, of MacTutor seem great to me are articles such as bignums, (color) icon families, random number generators, efficient coding, accuracy and speed, and the list is too long to continue. I would also like to see fluff like who said what at Macworld cut, if cuts are to be made, and code snippets rather than feature check lists. Object oriented programming ideas for efficient and effective design and use would sound good whether in TCL, neon/yerk/mops or other.

Finally, while Dave Mark is a great addition, don't lose Jorg Langowski, that would be a great loss.

- Phillip Helman

[Phillip, I agree that we always have to remember the primary goal of the magazine to provide information to developers without regard to developer status. But information includes not only code, but product reviews and information from trade shows such as Macworld. I will continue to keep an eye on such types of articles so that they won’t take over the magazine. - Ed.]

Ourageously expensive System Software

I attended my local MUG meeting on Saturday and there was great concern voiced about the cost of system 7.1. I agree with everyone else at the meeting - a Mac is not a Mac without the GUI. Apple has something special and they are about to blow their bigest advantage over other computer systems.

At first I didn't feel that payment for the new system would be that bad. I had heard(or possibly read) that it would only be about $20. [especially if it included new docs - Ed.]

I figured I could live with that. But then people at the MUG meeting were saying that it will be closer to $60 and what about System 8 is apple going to charge $200+? That was the biggest question. I guess that everyone figured, when they bought a Mac that the system software was part of the deal and they would always have free access to the latest and greatest.

Apple needs to re-evaluate their position and people said that magazines could give them a big push by opening their eyes to the feelings of all their users and most of all, the Mac User Groups who represent a large portion of people who have made Apple what they are today.

Any help would be appreciated as well as any comments. I may not have the full story so I could be wrong, but there are a lot of upset users out there. All you have to do is take a look on the networks and you will find plenty of people that are not very pleased with the change.

Apple should also think about its developers - will they be so willing to invest thousands in development of programs for the new system software when a lot of people won't upgrade? I know, as a future software developer, that I would not want to make an investment that large if there was a chance that most of the Mac community would not be using the latest system software. I would stick with the one that was being used by the most users.

- John Conrader

[John, I agree. I’ve been using Macs since 1985 and I’ve always understood that System Software would be given away except with respect to distribution costs. I’ve never had a problem paying for download time or paying for disks for the dealer to copy the software. You’re right, a Mac is not a Mac without System Software. Apple is changing the rules and we should let them know that we don’t agree. So write us more letters and post things on BBSs.

If they want to charge for System Software, it should be a 486 version!

As far as your feelings on developers. Again, I agree. Apple wants developers to support all Macintosh models, yet the discounts developers receive keep getting smaller and smaller. Nowadays, you have to check both the developer price list as well as your local newspaper to see which deal is best. This is fine for the larger developers, but the more innovative software these days is coming from small developers. Are you awake Apple? - Ed.]

More, More, More

One of the topics receiving a lot of press these days, especially concerning the PowerPC‘s, is application frameworks. From your Sept 92 issue talking about Macworld, you stress that anyone not familiar with application frameworks will be well behind the curve when Bedrock comes out and that Apple stresses learning the concept of frameworks over and over and over.

My suggestion is to take an existing application framework (THINK Class Libraries would be my choice because they are simpler than MacApp and I happen to own THINK C) and one of the sample apps included (specifically art class from TCL) and disect it. I want to see where the standard classes are used, where classes have been modified and why, how to implement floating palettes, where AppleEvents are responded to, etc. The columns that show the creation of a new app are great, I just want to see an analysis of existing code rather than a creation.

If you expand the getting started column to more than four pages, assume that people aren't neophyte programmers (neophyte mac programmers maybe, but not neophyte programmers), and take four months to do an in-depth analysis it would be truly spectacular. Or perhaps, add a column for more advanced programmers that would start out with this as the subject. PC programming mags (Dr. Dobb's is the first example to come to mind) have columns like this all the time.

Suggestion number two is for additional columnists (regular or guest). if possible, get someone within Apple (especially DTS) to contribute. A DTS contributor would be able to take an interesting problem (applicable to the magazine's monthly topic of course) they encountered and explore it with the rest of the world. Someone from DTS would also be able to give some perspective on new tools, upcoming enhancements, political changes, etc.

Question - what is the phone number for the mousehole BBS?

I want to thank you for the magazine and for the work you do. As the only development oriented mag, you provide a great service to the Mac community. Keep it up.

- Robert J. Sanford, Jr.

Programmer, Future Soft Engineering

[Robert - Let’s take these one at a time. You speak of dissecting a framework implementation. Are you talking of the transition work that needs to be done in order to take advantage of Bedrock? If so, we’ll need to wait until that happens. But, you are right, that would be a great article. Do you hear that Bedrock Early Developers?

Getting Started’s length is not limited to four pages. The last couple of months have been shorter because of Dave Mark’s new baby. His articles will start to get longer now.

A regular more advanced column. I like it! Mike Scanlin has been making regular contributions that tend to get into this area. I will continue to encourage him to do as much as he can.

I too would like to see more articles from DTS. Here’s the problem. Apple used to have a “matching” program where they would pay Apple employees extra for publishing articles outside of Apple. In one of their cuts a year or two ago, Apple removed this program to save money. The end result is that most Apple employees are overwroked as is, and they now don’t have the incentive that they used to. If you have an AppleLink account, please send a link to DEVSERVICES requesting the reinstatement of this policy.

Mousehole. We get this question a lot. Larry Nedry has moved to Texas. As of this writing, he has not been able to set up the Mousehole. We will post information when it comes available.

Finally. Thanks for the support and the suggestions. This helps a lot. - Ed.]

Armchair programmer

Just thought I'd drop you a quick note to thank you for the article “C or Pascal?” in your Sept 92 Issue. It helped explain in just a couple of pages some of the more troubling C questions I've had. Those being the calling of toolbox routines from C and the usage of the operator '&'. I'm not a real programmer, just a reader, mainly the armchair programmer variety.

For suggestions for us beginners in the black arts of programming maybe try a 'Easy' explaination (like in the above mentioned article) of the whys and wherefores of the handles and pointer notations of THINK C. I understand the machanics of pointers and handles but the usage in C have always been confusing to me.

Thanks again for a great magazine, I've subscribed to MacTutor since its beginings and have enjoyed every one of them, though before you changed to the present format the articals were getting pretty complex.

- Lon Byrne

[Lon, as you can see from other letters, we have to walk a tightrope every month. Are articles too complex for the novice? Are articles too simple for the professional programmer? Our answer is to present the information in an understandable fashion. Dave Mark will continue to cover the ins and outs of Macintosh programming, but in such a way that it does not bore the more experienced reader.

For thoese readers out there that would like to see more complex articles, write in and let us know the topics. Better yet, write a complex article on a topic you know about.

For those readers who want to learn the basics, read Dave Mark’s column. If there is something there that you don’t understand, let us know and ask questions of us and those around you. - Ed.]

MacTutor and Macwizard

Thank you, thank you, thank you! The TCL issue was very handy. In fact, they could all be TCL issues and you'd get a "thank you" letter from me each month. In this issue's letters, two readers (Luc RoeIs and Edward Wolpert) requested first and foremost more Pascal. Allow me to second their opinion.

Finally, do not be afraid to publish more basic articles. As you concluded at MacHack, there are many would-be Mac programmers who just purchased one of those zillion classic Macs and they make their decision to purchase your fine magazine by measuring the amount of hand-holding in its first article. I've been there! In years past I purchased only an occasional copy of MacTutor just to read the ads in hopes of finding a resource that had what I needed - beginner's code.

Bring on the beginner's code again and again because as reader Steven Woolgar puts it in your letters column, "I wasn't listening before." Even Dave Mark doesn't rehash. He rewrites. On the second pass, some of this material is more valuable to the reader than it was on the first approach.

Obviously some of the readership wants bleeding edge material, too. As your success grows, you might be forced to begin publishing MacTutor and MacWizard anyway!

- Mike Leahy

[Mike, just about every Pascal article that comes in gets printed if it is any good. The problem is that many writers have moved to C because the market in general has moved to C. So we will continue looking, but they are difficult to find. I do agree, I want more Pascal articles! - Ed.]

New Look and Object Programming

Just a note to say that I think the "new" look is outstanding! As a new programmer, I find so many useful things in each issue, especially Dave Mark's column. It would be nice to see something, of programs such as Serius Programmer/Developer and TGS Prograph. These appear to be different programming environments and deserve to be seen by the programmers who read your magazine. Contrary to what others have written I believe that since there are so many programmers with different tastes they should have the opportunity to sample all the programming "flavors". Keep it up!

- Scott Clausen


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