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Oct 93 Editorial
Volume Number:9
Issue Number:10
Column Tag:The Editor's Page

What time is it kids?

By Neil Ticktin, Editor-in-Chief

It’s Macworld time, of course! Yes, it’s true Macworld Expo/Boston has come and gone once again. This year’s Macintosh fiesta was held at the usual World Trade Center and Bayside Expo on August 3-6th.

Overall, the show was fairly “normal,” but there were a few notable things. First and foremost was Newton - the “buzz” of the show. With our MacTech Magazine booth being across from Apple’s Newton display, we can attest to the crowding in the aisles for a glimpse at Newton - but more on that in a minute.

On the developer tool front, there was not a lot going on. But there was the usual cast of tools folks showing their latest wares. In general, the tools market looks like it is getting stronger. Expect to see a lot of new tools starting at the end of this year, and a bunch of new releases in the first half of 1994. In addition, Apple is continuing on its new technology craze - AOCE, QuickDraw GX, AppleScript, and PlainTalk to name a few.

Newton

By now, you’ve all heard about Newton. With a little cooperation from Apple, you’ll be hearing a bunch more Newton information from us. Specifically, we hope to be covering the Newton Toolkit (or NTK for short) in the next couple of months.

There are a lot of people who are comparing the Newton MessagePad (the first Newton product) to the Macintosh 128K. In many respects they’re probably right - the MessagePad lacks software, reportedly is a little buggy, and needs more power and memory. But Newton has one thing the 128K lacked - good developer tools. Everything that we heard at the show indicated that the underlying Newton OS, NewtonScript and the development tools are quite rich. This is especially true when you consider that this is version 1.0 of those tools/software (and in some cases only 1.0 beta versions).

Once Apple sends our review unit, we’ll get you a review of Newton from the developer’s point of view. This will include the NTK. What we want to know from you is, how much would you like MacTech to cover on Newton? Send me an e-mail and let me know. See page 2 for contact information.

AppleScript

This was the first Macworld at which AppleScript was shipping. Unfortunately, AppleScript really didn’t get a chance to “strut its stuff” at Macworld. First, it was given a small area in the Apple booth, where it was greatly overshadowed by Newton.

Second, and more importantly, most of the major vendors that support AppleScript well either weren’t at Macworld or didn’t have a lot to say about it. For example, probably the most important companies are Symantec, Quark and Aldus. They’ve created very scriptable versions of their applications. But neither Symantec nor Quark had booths at Macworld. Aldus, who was there, seemed to be concentrating more on their personal products division. UserLand Software (who makes the Frontier scripting system) also didn’t have a booth at the show. However, Dave Winer, Frontier Creator and UserLand President, did make a great presentation at our MacTech Magazine LIVE! conference on scripting THINK C with Frontier.

The scripting model needs to be accepted by the developer and user communities. Most of the “hot” technologies that Apple will be developing have some tie to scripting. Those applications which aren’t fitted to handle AppleEvents (the communication method behind scripting) will not be able to take advantage of technologies to come. For those of you interested in better supporting AppleEvents, you might want to take a look at the May, 1993 issue of MacTech Magazine, or see some of the materials that UserLand has prepared to help you make the transition. UserLand has an area on CompuServe (GO USERLAND). In Library 7 of that forum, is a file called “AppleEvents 101.sit” that will help you out. In addition, you can contact UserLand for more information about “wiring” your application for AppleEvents.

AOCE

Apple spent some of their time showing off the latest beta version of the Apple Open Collaborative Environment (AOCE) in private briefing rooms near the Expo. AOCE has been a very misunderstood technology. Some people (including myself at one time) think that it is for integrating all of your e-mail into one mailbox. While it’s true that AOCE can do this, that’s not what AOCE is about.

AOCE is designed to aid collaboration between people, groups, and applications on the Macintosh. In today’s environment, people generally are part of several different groups. As a result, the person acts as the glue between these different groups’ methodologies and protocols. AOCE puts System 7 (with AOCE installed) in the middle and lets it be the glue instead.

It is very difficult to describe the benefits of AOCE. It provides three things well - integration, transparency and authentication. Yes, today through QuickMail, I get all of my mail - Inter-office, CompuServe, Internet, AppleLink and GEnie - in one mailbox on my machine. But AOCE does a much better job of integrating these all into one user interface, and can also handle things like incoming voice mail in the same in-box.

Transparency features like the key chain (one password logs you into everything) are simple but very useful - especially for folks in advanced small networks, or medium to large size networks. These networks have lots of services, and it’s really nice to handle them all in one shot.

Finally, authentication (an electronic signature on a document) is particularly useful for companies that have work routing procedures and want to increase their responsiveness. Initially, this will be more helpful to large companies, but eventually with developed solutions, small and medium business should also benefit.

AOCE doesn’t do anything new or technically amazing. That’s not its benefit. Its benefit comes from an amazing amount of integration and thought towards seamlessness and ease of use. In short, if developers support AOCE, we will have Macintosh type communications and collaboration - instead of PC style efforts with a Macintosh user interface.

Developers will need to add AOCE support for their products. According to Apple, this is not that difficult. The example given was that WordPerfect added mailer support in just a few days. It wasn’t fully complete, but they could demonstrate it. We’ll be looking to give you more information on AOCE in future issues.

OpenDoc (aka Amber)

Some of you may remember something called Amber from the WWDC report we did a few months ago. Apple has renamed this technology OpenDoc. For those of you who don’t remember, OpenDoc is the technology behind “plug and play documents.” In an OpenDoc document, one would be able to have several different types of rich contents all contained in one document. The parts would each be manipulated, created, and handled by a part editor (kind of a mini-application). The technology handles such things as overlapping objects, linking, scripting, editing in place, multiple drafts, etc

OpenDoc is a technology that takes a different business approach than other Apple technologies or Microsoft’s OLE (a competing technology). It is managed by an industry neutral association to maintain the code. All the source code will be available. To date, Apple has gotten “enthusiastic response” from a number of major vendors. Apple has even gotten some cooperation out of Microsoft who publishes OLE. Since OLE will be (at least initially) a force in the industry, Apple has said that if you support OpenDoc, “you’ll get OLE support for free.” With this approach, developers will be in a no-lose situation.

The driving force behind OpenDoc is to get away from the “monolithic” applications of today. Instead, developers will be able to create some very targeted applications. Further, systems integrators (or publishers) will be able to package together a suite of targeted solutions that really fit the users’ needs. In some ways, this can be looked upon as an interim approach to Taligent. If nothing else, it helps to prepare developers for what might be ahead.

QuickDraw GX

For some time now, Apple has been releasing information on QuickDraw GX - their next generation imaging model. GX is meant to deal with many of the features that people have wanted, as well as fixing some problems that people have had. Apple says that GX will provide new “color, graphics, text and printing functionality for Macintosh.” While this task is already non-trivial, Apple says that they are “committed to retaining backward compatibility, to protect users’ investments in fonts, applications, and hardware.”

With some help from Apple, MacTech Magazine will be covering the details once GX becomes available. But to give you a taste now, GX will enhance graphics, color matching, type and layout technologies, and printing. There are going to be different levels of support for GX that developers will need to embrace. The most of important of which will be the easiest to implement. QuickDraw GX is on schedule to be released by the end of 1993.

Conclusion

Newton was definitely the “hot item” at the show. But Macworld demonstrated that we are pretty much in the “on hold” stage - partly due to the economy and Apple’s situation. In my opinion, 1994 is going to be great for Macintosh - PowerPC, some great technologies, and some great new programming tools will all be coming our way. Better get that vacation time in now!

sick of your customers having drive problems?

We recently received two floppy drive diagnostic products: Accurite Technologies’ MacDrive Probe and MicroMat’s DriveTech. Since we’ve had a bit of trouble with a couple drives, we jumped on both of them. Each has its own advantages. DriveTech has a slick interface with a fancy animated drive mechanism graphic. It comes with a standard 3M head cleaning floppy kit (the one that Apple endorses), but adds a dedicated 30 second thorough cleaning cycle utility. In addition it has a write test that uses a blank floppy, and a read test that uses a special calibrated test disk. The tests are basically pass/fail.

MacDrive Probe also runs blank floppy and calibrated floppy tests, but it is more a “service-tech” product. It doesn't have the fancy GUI. Its strong points are that it provides actual drive results in micro inches, RPMs and degrees, it has many adjustable parameters, and it interfaces with another product of theirs for performing adjustments with oscilloscopes and screwdrivers. It doesn’t come with a cleaner, nor does it have “cleaning cycle” software, but you can buy the 3M cleaner separately.

If your customers complain of problem disks, you might suggest these products as a solution. For more information, contact MircoMat at (415) 898-6227 and Accurite at (408) 433-1980.

Neil Ticktin, Editor-in-Chief

 
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