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Sep 96 Newsbits
Volume Number:12
Issue Number:9
Column Tag:Newsbits


By Will Iverson

General Magic Sets its Cap at the Internet

On July 11th, General Magic announced Presto!Mail and Presto!Link, a Web browser and email application for Magic Cap. On August 30th, the ill-conceived PersonaLink service will cease, hopefully bringing an end to the proprietary nature of Magic Cap. Now that General Magic has discovered TCP/IP, PPP, POP and SMTP, we can only hope that MagicCap fares better in the marketplace.

This is actually a great move for General Magic and the PDA market in general. Both the Magic Cap and Newton OS featured brilliant software and hardware designs, but they were both completely incompatible with everything else anyone owned. This might have worked with a razor-blade strategy (sell the razor cheap, clean up on the blades), but with such a high entry cost, few bit onto the technology. By adhering to standards, these PDAs justify their cost without forcing users to absorb propietary formats. With luck, this will spark a renaissance of the PDA market (and perhaps get some return on that investment money).

General Magic:

Paragraph Puts Up a VRML 2.0 Web Page

VRML enthusiasts will get a kick out of the VRML Power Friday Resource Page. Featuring transcripts and papers from the likes of Apple, IBM, Netscape, and SGI, it provides a great shot of the current state of the mind on this still nascent technology. Virtual reality is the promise, and VRML seems to be the path. You’ll know that 3D is really coming along when popular rendering programs export reasonably-sized VRML files.

VRML Power Friday Resource Page:

VOODOO Announces a New Version

UNI SOFTWARE PLUS has announced VOODOO 1.7, featuring Macintosh Drag and Drop, local file locking, printing of the project history, and “an assortment of other usability and performance enhancements, as well as some minor bug fixes”.

For a product description, see “Keeping Things Straight, Orthogonally” (MacTech Magazine 12.6 [June 1996] 61-70).


Game Sprockets Goes Gold

On July 2nd, Apple announced the GM 1.0 version of Game Sprockets (with new versions slated to appear any time now). This excellent package features six primary components: NetSprocket, SoundSprocket, SpeechSprocket (speech recognition), InputSprocket, DrawSprocket, and QuickDraw 3D RAVE (a 3D API at a lower level than normal QuickDraw 3D). Each component provides higher-level access to these common tasks (with the exception of QuickDraw 3D RAVE, which provides a lower-level, performance-intensive API). DrawSprocket, for example, allows a developer to put together quickly a double- or even triple-buffering scheme which automatically takes advantage of any hardware support. By placing the burden of such things as worrying about what Performa supports which hardware on the Game Sprocket library, developers are free to concentrate on the game itself.

All of this does not come for free. The Game Sprockets are implemented as PowerPC shared libraries only; 68K developers and players are left in the lurch. Duplicating the functionality of the Sprockets yourself for the 68K completely destroys the point of using the Game Sprockets. Eliminating the 68K cycle is an excellent way to keep development costs down; it is up to the developer to decide if this makes sense financially. Among those who have decided that this is a price worth paying are Future Point (developing the forthcoming Warcraft 2), MacPlay, Bungie, and Wirehead Systems.

Although they are designed for use with games, certain Game Sprockets are decidedly useful in other applications as well. DrawSprocket is useful whenever high-speed animation is required, and NetSprocket is an excellent tool for general lightweight networking development.

The Game Sprockets do, however, raise the spectre of namespace collisions, which are always possible with shared libraries. This is not to say that you will have this problem, but rather to call attention to the inelegant, brute-force manner in which the problem is dealt with. With such function names as ISpElement_NewVirtualFromNeeds, it is readily apparent what library is being called (once you figure the scheme out); but it is also rather messy. Namespaces would presumably be a step toward resolving this, but at the time of this writing none of the currently shipping Macintosh compilers support them.

Apropos of nothing at all, readers might like to bear in mind that Sprocket™ is a trademark of Xplain Corporation, publishers of MacTech Magazine.

Game Sprockets (don’t try this with a monochrome monitor):

Web Broadcasting Talks to FileMaker Pro...

On June 24th, Web Broadcasting announced support for FileMaker Pro 3.0, allowing you to easily publish databases on the Web. For intranet users, this may be the ideal way to develop client apps for inhouse production. This new version includes support for FileMaker Pro relational and portal fields, support for Infoseek-like “Next xx” records when performing a search, capability to mix “AND” and “OR” searches, and the capability to capture all passed http parameters (exceedingly useful for logging use).

Trial version of WEB FM 2.0v3:

Current registered users of WEB FM 2.0 can download version 3 at:

...And Tango Dances With It

Hot on the heels of Web Broadcasting, EveryWare shipped Tango for FileMaker Pro 3.0 on July 1st. EveryWare emphasized the performance and drag-and-drop ease of development for this new version of Tango/FM. Although significantly more expensive than Web Broadcasting’s solution ($395 versus $195), Tango provides a better upward migration path (including another EveryWare product, the Butler SQL - read on), and appears to be more popular.

Tango for FileMaker Pro 3.0:

Butler SQL 2.0

EveryWare announced on May 13th Butler SQL 2.0, which now supports TCP/IP, Alter Table statements, ODBC AppleScript, default ODBC and DAL stored procedures, and tracing ODBC commands from client applications. Butler SQL now comes bundled with Sterling Software’s CLEAR:Access, a drag-and-drop SQL reporting tool. EveryWare claims that ODBC support gives users a three to four times speed improvement over version 1.5. The product includes four toolkits to access the database, including a C/C++ framework, an AppleScript package (which actually supports any OSA language, despite the name), an XCMD toolkit, and FirstClass integration.


Nisus Revives QUED/M with 3.0

Nisus is back with QUED/M 3.0, which boasts features such as unlimited undo and redo, syntax coloring, GREP, noncontiguous selections, and “Macro Programming Dialect” (users of the Nisus Writer word processor will know what this is). It includes macros for HTML authoring, and a builder which allows you to add macros directly to the menu structure. It is now PowerPC-native, supports Apple Drag and Drop, and supports both Symantec and Metrowerks development tools. Perhaps most interestingly, it supports “text folding”, allowing a user to treat code as an outline, collapsing and expanding comments and loops (a feature supported for years by Frontier). In addition, it comes with Celestin Company’s Apprentice 4 source code CD. All this for only $69. Can you say “price war”?

QUED/M information and free demo:


Mainstay announced on May 8th the arrival of a new version of their BASIC tools. The Macintosh has long lacked a competitor to Visual Basic on the PC, and Mainstay looks to be positioning VIP BASIC 2.0 as such a product (to judge by their advertising). Featuring a forms-based visual development tool, Mainstay claims that users can export at any time to straight C (fully compatible with Metrowerks CodeWarrior) for the fastest possible executables. The tool includes a very small database which allows up to 32K of data; for larger databases, the user is required to purchase a separate VIP-BASIC Database Manager product. VIP-BASIC allows direct access to the Macintosh Toolbox, includes a framework, and generates PowerPC-native applications.

Mainstay VIP BASIC:

Tenon Revs MachTen: Price Subtraction, Ada Addition

The folks at Tenon have been busy developing software, and are getting much more aggressive with their marketing to boot. MachTen is a full-featured BSD UNIX for Macintosh; unlike Linux, however, it doesn’t take over your computer in the process. Rather, much like SoftWindows, it runs in a window on your Macintosh. The applications which run inside this shell are fully protected and preemptive. As of June 14th, the package includes NCSA httpd, DNS, POP3, IP forwarding, a complete UNIX-based C/C++ development, a high-performance X server, a complete X11R6 client development environment, and a Motif toolkit. The application is fully Macintosh-savvy, and supports mounting AppleShare volumes under NFS. As if that weren’t enough, a bundled version of BBEdit is included.

In addition, on June 24th, Tenon announced the availability of GNAT-Ada. Using the gcc back-end, combined with the GNAT-Ada front-end, Tenon has brought Ada 95 to the Macintosh and Power Macintosh. While not complete as of this writing, the package is available as a free update.

Both the 68K and PowerPC versions of MachTen are available now at a suggested price of $695 ($495 for the “personal” 68K version).

Tenon MachTen:


Blaze Tech Debugs Apple’s Debugging Course

Blaze Technology’s Malcolm Teas has just finished a revision of Apple Developer University’s course called “Debugging Skills and Strategies”. This revision provides a much needed update, to address PowerPC debugging and new debugging tools. If you are interested in learning more about low-level debugging, including such valuable tidbits as low-level knowledge of memory layouts, stack frames, and cross-fragment calls, you should absolutely check this one out. To cover the additional material, the class has been expanded to four days instead of the earlier three.

Apple Developer University:

Blaze Technology:

Altura Announces QuickHelp 4.0

Altura announced QuickHelp 4.0 on July 1, a tool for electronic indexed documentation. QuickHelp 4.0 adds support for the Windows95 version of WinHelp, including compatibility with Microsoft WinHelp 4.0 source.


Quick Off the Mark

On July 2, Kelly Rowan Mark was born, at 8 lbs., 3 oz. Dave Mark, the proud poppa, announces that the beautiful baby girl and mother are both doing fine. While MacTech Magazine does not recommend the use of tobacco products, a round of virtual cigars is certainly appropriate. Rumor has it the young lass takes after her dad and is already babbling PowerPC opcodes as she naps.


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