Apple cart; a MacCart: getting rid of Puzzle, multiple files in MacWrite, FatMac Ramdisk, slide shows, and external video. John J. Anderson.
I have so much MacStuff to tell you about this time around that my colleague Owen Linzmayer isn't going to get IIc a word in edgewise. That will come as good news to Mac owners this month and as bad news to owners of the II series. Next month, however, Owen will devote the entire column to the Apple II series--that is the deal we've struck for equal time. C'mon, Apple owners: write and/or telecommunicate to us the need for separate columns for the Macintosh and Apple II series. No promises, but we'd like to see what that response is. Modified Desk Accessories
I'm sure that by now you Mac owners have had your fill of most of the desk accessories to be pulled down from the Apple logo on the menu bar. Certainly the Scrapbook is the most important of these; we'd all be sunk without it. When I can remind myself of how handy it is, I sometimes pull out the Note Pad to jot down a phone number or an address.
But how often do you access the other entries on this menu? Surely the Control Panel is very important at least once in the life of every Mac owner. But I haven't used it for months. I always thought the calculator was a great idea, because it seemed ludicrous to keep a $7 machine nestled near my $5000 wonder. But in practice, I never seem to use it. Perhaps it is because I lack a numeric keypad, but I doubt that I would use the calculator even if I had one. Besides, my credit card calculator takes up much less space and costs much less than the keypad itself.
As far as the Alarm Clock, Key Caps, and Puzzle go, forget about it. Once in a blue moon I pull down the clock, to check it against my watch. I am pleased with the accuracy of this function. But I do not make use of it. If it could be used to power up to an application or MacWrite document, that might make a difference. The only time I ever used Key Caps was to find out where on the keyboard the bullet symbol was hiding out (Option-8, to save you a trip to Key Caps). I called up the Puzzle once during a demo of the Mac to my Mom and Dad. They said they thought it was cute.
In the backs of our minds, we have always hoped that someday we could replace a few of the sillier accessories with something really usefull--something with which we could customize our system disks. Well that day has arrived. The product is called Desk Accessory Mover, and four brand new accessories are already available for it. Using the program, you can load these new modules into the Apple logo menu while deleting any of the standard desk accessories that you find superfluous. You can save unused accessories in a storage area and bring them out as needed, or you can customize system folders to sport only the accessories you choose. The program, by Donald Brown, takes full advantage of the Macintosh Toolbox, and requires no documentation to manipulate successfully.
I'll describe the custom accessories that are now available, in order of their importance to me. First is Mock Write a text editor desk accessory, which allows modification of text files on the fly. This has proved an invaluable asset to me as a means to create and edit text files from within a terminal program, as opposed to having to exit to exit the application, load MacWrite, prepare a file, exit MacWrite, and then reload the terminal application. It also allows a form of multiple file windows from within MacWrite itself. Right now I can keep a running "Firms Mentioned" file on MockWrite, while the Apple Cart itself resides in MacWrite. MockWrite looks just like a mini-MacWrite, and the editing functions work identically, though as a subset.
Next there is MockPrint, which can print a file from within any other application. It works as a subset of the Toolbox print dialog box, and you can choose the desired format and print quality of the output.
If you own a Skinny Mac and a Tecmar hard disk you'll want to install Compact, a desk accessory submitted by unnamed MAUGer 72436,3374, which clears as much memory as possible for those times when you try to eject a floppy and the Mac spits back at you with a "not enough memory" message. Using Compact, you can eject the Tecmar boot disk right off the bat and get its image off the desktop. This is a real boon to Skinny Mac/Tecmar owners who lack an external drive.
Finally there is MockTerm, which is a bare-bones but fully-functional terminal program which can be pulled down as a desk accessory. I use both MAcTep and MacTerminal to communicate through the Mac, Depending upon the tasks I intend to complete and have no real desire to utilize yet a third program. But I tried it, and it works, and it seems to work well.
The idea assuredly is that the creation of new desk accessories will be an ongoing process. Using the Desk Accessory Mover, you will always be able to keep your favorites on tap. Goodbye Puzzle, hello full-featured text editor accessory. Goodbye Key Caps, hello printer utility. I have already thought of a couple of other accessories I'd like to see. How about a pull-down reset accessory, which would eject all disks, then reboot from a cold start? That would save some wear and tear on all our tired power switches. What about a Panic Button Accessory to protect the Mac from unauthorized access while remaining in the middle of any application? It might turn off the screen and keyboard upon pull-down, then prompt for a password when the mouse is quadruple-clicked. Then after the boss has left, you can return to right where you left off in Lode Runner.
Let us know what ideas you have for desk accessories, and we'll make the best of them known to all--online and in print.
How can you get hold of Desk Accessory Mover and the new accessories for it? Well you're in for a bit of a shock--it is unprotected, and CE Software, distributor of the package, actually encourages you not only to copy it, but to give it to all the Mac owners you know. CE calls the approach the "MacHonor System." We have called it freeware in previous columns. The idea is that you can check out the actual program for yourself in your own time. If you don't care for it, you just erase it, and that is that. If you decide to use it, however, you are encouraged to send $15 to CE Software, ware, to receive a "user's license and registration." Their motto is, "They may laugh at us, but we trust you!"
Does it really work? Well, CE, as well as other freeware distributors, claim it does. I would love to believe that it does, but tend to be skeptical. I did manage to get MockWrite to crash mysteriously a couple of times, and generally believe that freeware is somewhat buggier than the real thing. But Desk Accessory Mover is worth at least $15, and my check is in the mail.
If you are member of MAUG, you can download Desk Accessory Mover and all four accessories outlined above right after you finish reading this column. They reside on XA4. Mac RAMDisk
If you are lucky enough to be the owner of a Fat Mac, another desk accessory that may already be on your list is RAMdisk. If it isn't, it shoud be, and I'll tell you why. One of the most serious problems of the Mac is its slowness and for most things, the Fat Mac is as slow as the Skinny Mac. But what if you could cache some of that 512K away, and get the Fat Mac to treat that chunk of RAM as a phanton floppy? That is exactly the task of a RAMDisk. When this "phloppy" is read from, files load as fast as they can be poured across the partition slammed into RAM--that is to say, really, really fast. How fast? Imagine moving between MacPaint and MacWrite in line than four seconds.
The real trick is to copy the system folder, or at least a relevant portion of the system folder, to the RAMdisk. Reading system files wastes the most time in moving to and from the Finder and actual applications. Add the most needed applications to the RAMDisk, and your Macintosh will retract its landing gear for the first time. A demo of Fat Mac with RAMdisk will give you a strong idea of how the Mac user intrfacer really should feel--and what the Xerox Star and Lisa were designed to do--namely, fly.
Wondering where to get a RAMdisk for your Fat Mac? Well, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, you can download it from Compuserve if you are a member of MAUG. More likely by now the question may be, why aren't you a member of MAUG?
The RAMdisk offered on XA4 of MAUG is offered by Paul Emerson (72355,171) with thanks to John Peterson and Mark Harley. It partitions a little over 300K into RAMdisk space. I have managed to bomb this program a couple of times, but it does work most of the time, and if booting MacMwrite in two shakes of a lamb's tail is the type of thing that excites you, you should download it. You'll need to install it using another program, available in XA5, called RMOVER (short for Resource Mover). We'll have to wait a little longer to see a pull-down RAMdisk desk accesroy.
Bear in mind that in the process of grafting on a RAMdisk, you will reduce directly addressable RAM back into the regions of the Skinny Mac. This fact underscores the shortsightedness of designing the current Macintosh to accept a maximum of 512K. (Perhaps this is a good time to remind ourselves that 68000 processor, brain of our little beige friend, can address only a measly 16 Meg). With a mere 1 Meg of RAM, we could load the entire system folder, MacWrite, MacPaint MacTerm, and Lotus Jazz into a RAMdisk and still have room for the overhead needed to run them all. But (tsk, tsk) we'll just have to wait for the next generation Mac to do that. Or will we, third party manufacturers? Are you listening?
The major "gotcha" in running a RAMdisk: creating a datafile, saving it to "phloppy" instead of floppy, then exiting the application or accidentally "ejecting" the RAMdisk. In the latter case, Emerson shows you a way to "reinsert" the RAMdisk and recover the files. But it is always best to be careful to save datafiles to actual disks.
Emerson is another one of that dedicated breed of programmers who offers the fruits of his labors gratis to all, to use, share, and improve upon (see Telecommunications Talk for more on this score). He adn those like him embody the principles of unprotected code, shared insight, and the freeware ethic that has characterized many Macintosh developers and developments. More power to all of you.
It is also likely that retail RAMdisk packages will appear alongside other Fat Mac software in the very near future. Slide Show Magician
We received a demo disk in the mail teh other day that stopped my workday cold (not to say that's too tough to do). The disk consisted of "projector" and "show" cons developed on a package called the Slide Show Magician from Magnum Software. It allows you to make "slide show" presentations to run on the Macintosh.
Using input form MacPaint, AcWrite, Multiplan, or any compatible binary source, you can compile graphics displays, and use any of a half dozen special effets to move between them. Wipes, dissolves, special effects, and animated effects are all available from point and click development "maps"--which, according to the manufacturer, allow you to compose shows quite easily You can interrupt and branch on any frame, using buttons right from the Toolbox, without any need for programming skills. You can superimpose text, either all at once word by word at a selectable rate--even insert subliminal messages (all's fair in love and slide presentations). Projectors and shows can be copied to disk at will, and will auto run from their Finder icons.
We have not yet seen the actual production package, and so will withhold comment on its ease of use for a follow-up in an upcoming column. But it can be said based on the demo only that Slide Show Magician is a very powrful package and one that capitalizes effectively on the power of the Macintosh as a tool for graphic presentations. $59.95. CineMAC
The emergence of a powerful software presentation tool for the Mac naturally segues back to a problem I raised in my initial review of the Macintosh, way back in July 1984: the sore lack of an external video output jack. Wuestion: How many people can you hunddle around a 9" screen and expect them to comprehend what flashes across it? Ansewer: No more than three.
In that original review I put forth the fond hop that a third party company would remedy the problem, and I'm happy to report that MicroGraphic Images Corp. has done just that. They sell a $195 kit that puts a video plug on the back of the Mac. All hardware is internal, and no black boxes are necessary. All you need is a video monitor with a horizontal scan rate of 22 Khz or higher. Compatible monitors with screens from 12" to 19" and even compatible video projection systems are available through Cinemac. Micro-Imager
Add another video digitizer to the Macfray: the Micro-Imager from Servidyne Systems. The hardware/software package allows you to capture an image from an NTSC video sources such as your home video camera, and transfer that image into the Mac. You can edit the image using MacPaint or by internal edit commands, and then store, recall, an dprint it whenever you wish.
Digitized image resolution is 511 x 322 pixels--virtually the entire Macintosh screen minus the menu bar. There are two capture modes: two-shade (best for high contrast line drawings and diagrams) and six-shade (best for pictures and portraits). Contrast and brightness adjustments are easily made via front panel controls. A video output is supplied for an external monitor, allowing one to view the digitized image in real time prior to capture. Connection is through the Mac modem port.
The price of the Micro-Imager was not finalized at press times; but Servidyne estimates a list price of $350.
That's about the size of it; I'm talked out. Next month, Mr. Linzmayer brings you further tales of the II-- then I'll be back with more on the Mac. Catch you then.