Washington Apple Pi

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General Meeting Report - January 1997

by Don Essick, Vice President, Macintosh

Our first General Meeting of 1997 and it was our pleasure to welcome back Jack Quattlebaum of Apple Computer's Atlanta office. When he was last here in October, Jack was so busy answering questions that he didn't get to finish his presentation. We invited him back, and he graciously agreed to return after MacWorld in San Francisco so that he would be loaded with the latest information. As you all know, a lot has happened at Apple since October and Jack filled us in on all of the latest information. In addition, Russ Pond, the district manager for Northern Virginia drove up from Richmond to attend. Welcome. Over 400 of the faithful attended. Every meeting should be like this!

First Jack dealt with the bad news of Apple's disappointing financials for the 4th quarter of 1996. Another big loss. Not surprising with the beating Apple has taken in the financial and general press. Everybody you talk to says "Apple is going out of business" and "the Mac is dead". Gil Amelio told everybody that the cost of restructuring Apple would be expensive. The good news is that there is a low inventory and big backlog of orders. They still have a good bit of cash and the stock is trading at almost book value. There's no place to go but up.

Next we got a peek at the 20th Anniversary Macintosh. Design by Bang & Olafson, sound by Bose and a Concierge shows up to install it for you and hands you the leather-bound manual. Only 10,000 units will be made to the tune of about $9,000 each. Save your pennies. Also on display was the E-Mate. A "Newton on Steroids" aimed at the K-12 education market. Slick little case containing what amounts to a larger-screen Newton with a keyboard. Will come with special configurations and software for the education market. Looks like the back-end of a Porsche.

We were then treated to the plan for the MacOS. Like "the entertainer formerly known as Prince" we now have the "Operating system formerly known as Gershwin". Keeping with the musical metaphor in OS naming, MacOS 7.6, due out any day now, is known as Harmony. There may or may now be an interim update before Tempo is released by July of 1997. This will be followed by Allegro in January of 1998. But first - what is in Harmony?

Among the features being touted in Harmony are:

According to some estimates, those of us with PowerPC platforms should see some improvement in speed, especially on newer machines. There is a completely new installer which endeavors to do everything right. Jack reported that it took an hour and 15 minutes to install the update on 7.5.5. from a hard disk image. Your milage may vary.

We got a brief demo of the new Extensions Manager. Pretty slick with lots more info about your extensions. Allows you to sort by status, name, size, version and "package" (a bit unclear about how this info is derived). Not exactly the same as Conflict Catcher 3 but much improved over what we have now.

Also improved in MacOS 7.6 are LiveObjects and OpenDoc. Although LiveObjects 1.1.1 ships with the update, 1.1.2 is already available. Also included is Open Transport PPP 1.0. This replaces the current PPP extension and is part of the new integration of OpenTransport into the MacOS. Jack also showed a neat little utility for those of us who travel a lot or who share a computer with multiple family members. It's called Walkabout and is available at Apple's Powerbook Web Site (http://www.powerbook.apple.com/). Its official name is Location Manager. You should be able to locate it under that name.You can create named profiles which will remember PPP settings, chosen printer and other goodies. Lets you put them in a Control Strip on your Powerbook. Neat.

Looking into Apple's future, we see Tempo. Six months from now, Tempo is promising a Multi-threaded Finder, JAVA Virtual Machine, Personal Web Server, Assistants, Human Interface improvements and the usual version updates and bug fixes to MacOS extensions. This will be the first release which may show some effect of the acquisition of NEXT. In a move which surprised nearly everyone, Apple dipped into that cash box containing over a billion dollars and purchased NEXT for $350 million and assumed its $50 million in debt. Yes, Steve Jobs is back at Apple. Not day to day, but in an advisory role. It would be great if he could re-inspire the design team to develop some more "insanely great" technology. Lets just hope he doesn't become a problem child instead.

The acquisition of Next means that for the time being, Apple will be pursuing a dual OS strategy. Shortly after the release of Tempo, in mid 1997, Rhapsody Developer Release 1 (the OS formerly known as Gershwin) should hit the streets. This will be the first peek at where the next generation MacOS is going. The NEXT OpenStep OS already has many of the features promised for Gershwin: Pre-emptive multi-tasking, protected memory, multi-threading, symmetric multi-processing, etc. Rhapsody promises to be the OS that will include the best of the "Classic" MacOS integrated with the more modern OpenStep features. Sonata, due out in mid-98 just might be the first look at an integration of these technologies. We'll have to wait and see what develops.

This is how the OS will look. At the lowest level will be the PowerPC hardware. Apple has not committed, as yet, to supporting the 68K series in the future. The features such as protected memory rely on capabilities not built in to the 68K processor family. It is also unclear whether NuBus PPC machines will continue to be supported. Your love affair with your older machine may be in jeopardy if you want to play with Rhapsody.

Controlling the hardware and talking to the MacOS is the Microkernel. This is a library of code which ties the operating system to the hardware. The beauty of this code is that it lets the same operating system run on machines of different configurations. It perceives what hardware capabilities are available and how to service requests from the operating system to perform a certain task. This was the important piece that was to make the Power PC Reference Platform or Common Hardware Reference Platform work it's magic. It is still necessary, but industry support for PPRP/CHRP is waning. It now looks as if WindowsNT for PowerPC is a dead issue as is OS/2. That leaves MacOS and possibly BeOS as the only 2 players in the field.

Sitting on top of the Microkernel are the MacOS compatibility layer or "Blue Box". This is the piece that lets the "Classic MacOS" and programs run. Details are still sketchy, but Apple says most Mac programs currently selling should run here. There is some question, however, about some extensions and inits. Stay tuned. Beside the Blue Box is the "Yellow Box". This contains the MacOS based on OpenStep. The one with the new features we say we want and where the next generation of Mac software will execute. Also at this layer is a JAVA Virtual Machine for the JAVA applets and even applications which are becoming so popular. Finally, sitting atop it all is the "Advanced Macintosh "look and feel". Those things that make a Mac feel like a Mac. What the DOS bigots used to call the WIMP interface (Windows, Icons, Mouse Pointer).

Well, that's what we heard in the formal presentation, at least my interpretation of it. Any distortions from reality are due to my own prejudices and interpretations. Any errors are probably mine and not Jack's. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. I, for one, am hoping the nay-sayers are wrong and Apple rises, like a Phoenix, triumphantly from the ashes.

We then had a great question and answer session and gave away the goodies that vendors have passed on in the past month. Pickings were slim, but no, Jack didn't bring a Mac to give away. Anyway here's the ever-popular door prize list: Pam Rocky won Amoeba Arena, Danny Konkel received Info Genie, Jacque Leedom was presented with Print Artist and Mike Hayes took the copy of Power Chess for Windows 95.

The Iomega T-shirt went to Barb Nooger while the Power Mac Book wient to Gary Visgaitis. Frank Potts won the Mac Web Browser Kit book and Terry Popkin won Magic Cap Complete. Finally, Todd Lebeau won the Illustrator 5.0/5.5 Bible and the ever-popular Apple Service Drink Bottle went to Bernadette McMahon.

We hope to see you all next month when Mariner Software will present MarinerWrite, a new small-footprint, big featured word processor and Charles Schwab software will introduce e-Schwa b for Macintosh so that the capitalists among us can trade our stocks via the web.

Our thanks to Beth Medlin, Lawrence, Tom, David, and all of the others who help out with the monthly meetings. Our local Proxima Rep, Bonnie Allen, who has so graciously loaned us her demo equipment for so many months has left the company. Fortunately, Apple brought their own projector this month. We are trying to contact the new Proxima rep to continue our relationship with them. If you or your company have access to a projector of this type and would be willing to loan it to the Pi for our monthly meetings, or if you have any suggestions, comments or criticism, send them along to me at don.essick@tcs.wap.org. See you next month.

Copyright 1997 Washington Apple Pi, Ltd.


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