Mar 94 Macworld Expo
|Column Tag:||From The field
New developments for developers from the show
By Scott Boyd, Editor
Januarys MacWorld Expo took place in San Franciscos Moscone Center, a convention hall split into two sections. As usual, most of the big-name companies were in the main hall. New this year was Apples absence from the main hall. Apple instead took up an entire room which, in previous years, has served as both a conference hall and as a registration room where hundreds of people at a time stood in line to have badges printed. This year, although the room was large, someone had decided that, to get in, you had to swipe your badge through one of their badge readers. This resulted in one of the longest and most persistent lines Ive ever seen at MacWorld Expo, and theres no telling how many people never even got inside the room to see the PowerPC machines, the Drag Manager being demonstrated by Greg Anderson (one of its authors), and several other cool things. Maybe next time Apple could just buy the attendee list from Mitch Hall, and open up its doors. Its got to cost less than annoying so many potential customers. If you didnt stand in line, you can still check out the Drag Manager. The developer kit is available from APDA. Its a nice piece of work, and something youll probably want to use.
If there was a theme to the Expo, it had to be the general absence of a theme. MacWorld Expo 1.0.1. It seems almost as if everyone was holding their breath, waiting for the arrival of PowerPC. A few developers showed their ports, but Apple required that they not let anyone see the hardware.
Random Show Observations
Metrowerks, the folks who brought us CodeWarrior, was a guest in the MacTechMagazine booth. No doubt about it - as far as the developer market is concerned, this was the hot item at the show. The Gold Edition was outselling the Bronze Edition by a good three to one, showing that quite a few developers are putting their money on PowerPC. We know of several people who bought CodeWarrior at the booth, went back to their hotel, and converted their applications overnight. A commonly-heard comment from these people was that everything went well and that their code looked good. One reported that his application built (for the PowerPC, on the PowerPC, start to finish)in seven seconds, and that the code was the best hes been able to build with any Mac-hosted tools.
The currently available CodeWarrior is a development version, so expect a glitch or two, but you can also count on a free upgrade when it goes final. Rich Siegel has written a ThinkC 6.0 to CodeWarrior project converter, and its available on our source code disk and online services.
Connectix surprised everyone (including themselves) with a runaway best-seller, RAMDoubler. Their line was about as long as Apples, but these people were excited and happy. There is more than one company using RAMDoubler to take their 20+MB machines up over the 40MB mark so they can run large-heap MPW along with their applications in very large partitions. It was fun to hear the wild variety of assertions and speculations about how its implemented.
Microsoft displayed a number of interesting things at their gigantic booth (well-positioned quite near our not-quite-so-gigantic MacTech Magazine booth). They had the normal stuff, but they also had some new things of interest. In addition to the new FoxPro, they also showed a collection of home-oriented titles. These included a detailed walk through of a museum; a collection of over two hundred instruments from all over the world; an extensive collection of movie titles, coupled with reviews from a variety of famous reviewers, clips, stills, and other movie details. They also showed a word processor for kids, with a lot of nice touches, and was one of the most entertaining pieces of software I saw at the show. Check it out. It might have an idea or two you might want to use to make your own software more entertaining.
Steve Jasik has a PowerPC debugger hes calling his Two-Headed Debugger. Its up and running, and he was proudly displaying it at the show.
It was interesting to see DEC and SGI at the show. SGIs booth was packed both times Iwent by. DECs wasnt.
My personal favorite was Delta Taos booth, where most of their wares were available for only $20. Ipicked up Erics Ultimate Solitaire, a most excellent rendition of a whole slew of card games. The best part? Ithink its the fluid motion as you throw a card to its destination. Very nice. The humorous manual alone is worth a read.
Rabbit out of a hat
What does 1994 have in common with 1984? Would it be that Apple shows the world how to break free of the grip of Big Brother? Well, not exactly. In fact, Apple plays only an indirect part in this years saga. It involves many of the original members of the team which brought us Macintosh, but this time they are part of an Apple spinoff called General Magic.
Bill Atkinson, Andy Hertzfeld, Susan Kare, and many other familiar names started a company called General Magic four years ago, and are now proudly showing off what has kept them so busy. You probably know Bill for QuickDraw, Andy for vast portions of the Macintosh Toolbox, and Susan for many of the cute designer touches (including Clarus the dogcow) which helped make Macintosh so appealing.
General Magic got its start at Apple as a project to take a look at what might constitute the next paradigm shift. The project had at least two names, Magic Crystal and Paradigm. After a few months, Marc Porat, Bill, Andy, and a few others spun the project out with Apples help. Marc had done his dissertation at Stanford on the business of the information society, so its no surprise that the business of General Magic is all about telecomputing. General Magic has developed technologies for its licensees, and they will deliver on a variety of devices. The licensees include Sony, AT&T, Matsushita, Philips, Apple, and Motorola (and NTT just joined up), and you can expect these personal communicators to offer a variety of wireless and wireline connections.
Magic Cap is the software platform, and General Magic would have you believe that Cap is an acronym for Communication Applications Platform. It includes the user interface and operating system which will run on a variety of (mostly handheld) devices. It has a variety of places. The first one you see is a desk with a bunch of things you might ordinarily have on your desk, including a phone, a phone book, a postcard, in and out boxes, a date book, and a note book. From there you can move to the hallway, where there are rooms like the library, the store room, and the game room. You can go in a room, or you can go downtown. Downtown is where you can find services which live outside your device, like AT&Ts PersonaLink e-mail service. You might also find a comic strip subscription service, a shopping mall, and other services.
While it works best on a personal communicator (General Magic has a minimal hardware specification), Magic Cap will also run on Windows and Macintosh computers. This aspect represents both an opportunity and a potential pitfall for the developer. On the one hand, youll be able to develop and test on a machine you already have. On the other, its easy to forget that using a handheld device with a touch-sensitive LCD screen is entirely unlike using a Macintosh.
Magic Cap includes a date book, a filing cabinet, a name card file, and the ability to send just about anything by fax, phone, e-mail, infrared, and wireless (depending on what communication capabilities your communicator has in it). Each of these knows about the others, and they can share information, as well as use Telescript(a communication programming language) to make everything smart. For example, you can schedule a meeting in your date book, select attendees from the card file, and automatically create invitations which will get mailed to the invitees. Not only can the invitations carry along the schedule info for the recipient, they can add the meeting to their calendar and come back and note their rsvp in your calendar.
Magic Cap is object oriented through and through, top to bottom. Theyve defined object oriented extensions to C, and youll find yourself spending time in MPW writing, preprocessing the object extensions, compiling, and linking. Youll also spend time in Magic Cap constructing the appearance and some of the behavior of your creation. While theyre currently working in MPW, they are actively investigating other environments to speed up and otherwise improve the development experience.
Telescript is General Magics object oriented language of telecommunications. It has no interface, so it counts on Magic Cap and other things with interfaces to interact with a user. AT&T is using Telescript as the basis for its PersonaLink e-mail service. Because you have a programming language underneath the mail system, it can behave in a more intelligent manner than most mail systems. For instance, a mailbox can have rules like automatically delete mail from Neil, or if mail sits in this mailbox unread too long, fax it to me.
Telescript is for remote programming. This differs from remote procedure calling in that Telescript programs and objects get carried around the network (they call it the Cloud), and these get executed on a receiving computer (they call them agents). In this way, Telescript is rather like Postscript, in that you construct a program designed for execution on another machine. Its different, though, in the way they think about these programs. They talk about programs going somewhere, and then directing the work at the agents site. Because of this, you can think of the network as a platform rather than simply a network.
The key elements of Telescript are places, agents, travel, meetings, and connections. Places are things like home, a shopping center, a public service provider, each representing something in the physical world. An agent occupies a place, and transacts the business of the place. Places and agents can have authority, and are both programmed in Telescript. Agents can go from place to place, and they do it with a single command (so you dont have to know all about getting from place to place). Agents in the same place can negotiate to set up meetings where they can transact business. Agents in different places can set up connections if both are available.
Telescript is an interpreted language. A Telescript program cant touch the physical resources of the computer its running on, so youve got some built-in safety mechanisms.
Where do you fit in?
General Magic is currently working with (some would say over) a number of developers, and they want to work with more. However, they are a startup and have limited resources, so theyre not ready to handle all of the developers who have expressed interest, but theyre working on it. They have to get the first release out, and then they can open it up.
In the meantime, you can contact them and let them know if youre interested, and theyll make sure you hear about any new developments. They also have forums on America Online and CompuServe, and may add others as they have time. On America Online, use the keyword General Magic.
General Magic will have people at this years MacHack (see below for more information). Theres talk of even adding a Best Magic Cap Hack category to the Annual MacHax Best Hack Contest. That would indicate that there will be enough development information/tools at the conference to get everyone hacking away, and sleeping even less than usual. General Magic also plans to hold a developer conference in September.
We will bring you some solid Magic Cap development articles in upcoming issues, and continue to keep you informed about interesting new development opportunities.
For More Information
MacHack - June 23 through 26th. 313/882-1824. ALink Expotech or firstname.lastname@example.org. Plan on hacking, not sleeping.
General Magic - send your name, company affiliation, contact information, and brief background info about you and your company to email@example.com, and theyll contact you.
Delta Tao - firstname.lastname@example.org or keyword delta tao on America Online.
Food for Thought
Typecasting is the goto of the nineties