The November General Meeting of the Washington Apple Pi was held as usual in the Ernst Community and Cultural Center of the Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Virginia. The meeting started with the usual question and answer session, followed by our featured presenter.
This month we were pleased to welcome back Jean-David Mankovsky of Apple Computer to provide us with an Apple Update. Foremost on all of our minds, of course, was the status of Mac OS 8.1. The proposed release date was only hours away from the meeting. Well, folks, it isn't happening. Maybe a Christmas present, but for sure by MacWorld in January. But, I digress.
JD started off his presentation with the all too familiar good news/bad news from Apple Computer. The bad news: another loss, mostly due to one-time charges due to the "downsizing" and write-down of inventory. The good news: New Macs! JD brought along one of the new wicked-fast G3 Macs. These new speed demons are really impressive. The new design includes a faster system bus and an on-chip "backside cache" which runs at up to 1:1 with the processor. This really ratchets up the speed at which work gets done in the computer's processor and the faster bus means that the processor can talk to the memory and peripherals faster too.
Although Mac OS 8.1 will be late, we did get an update on what features will be forthcoming. The biggest news is HFS+. The current Mac file system, HFS, has several limitations that, until recently, were not a big deal. Back when HFS was introduced, a 20MB hard disk was considered big. Now it's hard to get less than a 2GB hard drive. The problem is that the size of the file allocation table is fixed. The problem being that while a 20MB disk is broken up into 512 byte allocation units, a 2GB drive is broken up into 32K chunks. This means that every file you save is at least 32K in length, and a file that is 32,769 bytes long takes up 64K because the one extra byte uses up a whole allocation unit. The other limitation is that there is a maximum of 32K files on a single volume. Both of these problems will be solved by HFS+.
Also on the way is QuickTime 3.0, Open Transport 1.1.3, LaserWriter 8.5.1, Mac OS Runtime for Java 2.0 and improved Finder performance and the usual bug fixes and updates. JD gave us a demo of the dramatic changes coming in QuickTime 3.0. QuickTime's new capabilities make it the Swiss Army Knife of multimedia. You can open just about any multimedia file, JPEG, MPEG, MIDI, etc., and it will play. Also introduced were QuickTime "sprites" which allow you to do animations on a path. This makes for very small files compared to traditional animation methods. JD showed a traditional movie of penguins frolicking (which we need to acquire the rights to) and then did the identical animation saved using QuickTime sprites. The difference was on the order of 100:1 compression. Amazing.
I'm sure I've forgotten much of what went on at the meeting. The prize winner list and those details are on the oxide of my dead hard drive. May they rest in peace. My usual thanks to the many people who help make these meetings happen each month. Next month is the Garage Sale in the Gymnasium across the lobby. In January 1998, Claris will be here to show off new versions of FileMaker Pro, Home Page and ClarisWorks. Microsoft is coming in March 1998 with Office 98. February is still up in the air. Next month I'll make sure to back up everything to Zip disks.