A Freezing Few On Mac's New System

David Frith
Sydney Morning Herald

September 12, 1988

HAVING trouble with your Macintosh applications all of a sudden? Mac freezing or crashing? Funny hieroglyphics on screen? Applications that you once trusted doing all kinds of strange things?

You're not alone, not by a long chalk. If you've updated your system file lately, installing Apple's System 6.0, that is very likely the source of your problem. Yours and many others'.

Apple Computer is almost alone in its policy of continuously revising its operating system. Twice a year at the very least, and sometimes more frequently, a new version of the Macintosh system is circulated and rushed into service by eager Mac users.

Sometimes the changes are minor: a few bugs fixed, a little code rewritten more elegantly. Sometimes they are major: new features like the hierarchical file system or the Multifinder multi-tasking ability added. Around the world at any one time, 27 different versions of the system are said to be operating

System 6.0, a major release which includes a macro facility among other new features, is the first to have brought significant sections of the Macintosh international-installed base to its knees. The howls from all sections of the Mac community since it came out in June have been immediate and loud.

Here, courtesy of Australian Macworld magazine, is a list of applications, gleaned from an Apple source, that have "a major loss of functionality"running under System 6.0: dBase Mac 1.0; MacDraft 1.2a; MacTex 2.0; ResEdit 1.1b3; Trapeze 2.0; 4th Dimension 1.0.4; Insight General Ledger 2.0; Excel 1.04.

The following have a "minor loss of functionality": Color More 1.1c; Frame Mac 1.10; Guide 1.0; Mac Cogo 1.01; Works 1.1; McNet; VideoWorks II 2.0; Microsoft File 1.05; WriteNow 1.07.

Applications with "cosmetic problems" include Mac3D; MacDraw 1.95; Adobe Illustrator 1.1; Color More 1.1; Cricket Draw 1.1; Cricket Graph 1.2; FullPaint 1.1; MacWrite 5.0; MGM Station 2.09; Pixel Paint, Powerpoint 1.0; Red Ryder 10.3; Graphic Works 1.1; Suitcase 1.2.1; C.A.T. 1.00; Microsoft Word 3.02; Plain & Simple 1.02; Frame Mac 1.10.

I can add a few more to that, noted from complaints posted on electronic bulletin boards. They include Soundmaster, SmartCom and most of the games produced by Silicon Beach. Horror of horrors - Dark Castle and Beyond Dark Castle, believed by many adherents to be the electronic games they play in heaven, won't run at all.

With all the money and resources at the disposal of Apple Computer, how can such a functional disaster make it into the marketplace?

Apple's official line has been (a) that the problems have been exaggerated and (b) that in any case there's really nothing wrong with System 6.0 at all. The problem is with applications whose programmers have not strictly followed Apple guidelines: those applications will now have to be "tweaked" to bring them into line.

There is probably some truth in this. But, as many angry users have noted, the fact remains that their software worked fine right up until they put Apple's new system into their machines.

And it's noticeable that many of the applications striking problems are from Microsoft (Works, Excel, File), a company not totally unfamiliar with the Macintosh operating system, having written much of it. And several problem programs - MacWrite, MacDraft - are those of Apple itself, or its software alter ego, Claris.

Help is at hand. Apple Computer Australia's national marketing manager, Tony Fraser, says an updated system, 6.0.1, is being shipped with new Macintoshes, and should fix all problems.

Apple dealers should have stocks within the next week or so. Under the usual Apple-approved arrangements, the dealers can pass this on to their customers, either free or for a small fee. A full System Update package, consisting of several discs and documentation, costs $99.

Rumours abound in the trade press of the imminent release of a new, more powerful version of the Macintosh II. To be called the Mac IIX, it is said to be based on the Motorola 68030 chip but will not access all of its features; have four megabytes of random access memory as standard; and to sport a new 3.5-inch super-duper disc drive able to read, write and interchange both Macintosh and MS-Dos data.

Further, the drive will support a new high-density Mac format: 1.4 megabytes on a single 3.5-inch disc, almost twice the normal 800 kilobytes.

About time, if true: IBM and clone users have been able to squeeze 1.4 megs on to identical discs for some time. While IBM and Apple disc-formatting systems are quite different, there seems no technical reason the discs shouldn't have a similar capacity.

Apple Computer Australia is, as might be expected, refusing all comment on the US-based rumours. It has already announced, but not released, a 4-meg Mac II, based on the existing 68020 processor. The worldwide great chip shortage has delayed its appearance.

One should also note that the chief Apple honcho, John Sculley, has said repeatedly this year that the company will not introduce any new computers during 1988. But Apple is not viewing this as a new computer - merely as a logical upgrade of the current Macintosh II. Probable release date now appears to be October.

Also said by some with close Apple links, to be due early next year, is the long-rumoured laptop Mac. And, yes, both machines will probably be running a totally new system, 7.0. Keep your fingers crossed.

Desktop publishers, like all publishers, need a variety of typefaces if they want their publications to look fresh and imaginative. But if they're not chosen with care, the result can turn out an electronic pakapoo ticket.

There are now so many typefaces available for PostScript-language laser printers like Apple's Laserwriter that for someone not used to dealing with type - and the DTP revolution has brought many such to the fore - the choice can be bewildering.

A bit of help comes from Adobe Systems, a major typeface supplier as well as the author of PostScript. It has now put together three packages of typefaces guaranteed to work well together in different applications.

Each package contains three faces, selected by a leading expert in typography or design who also writes a booklet of design guides and tips.

There's a Publishing Pack for Newsletters (cost: $849), for instance, written by Roger Black, who's been in charge of design at The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Newsweek and The Muppet magazine. Black's selections are Franklin Gothic, a type he describes as "big and bold"; Galliard ("very swanky and elegant") and Century Old Style ("somewhere in between, for balance"). "With those three faces you ought to be able to do just about anything," he has said.

There's now also a Forms and Schedules pack, and - hot from the electronic press - a Presentations Pack ($998) for making business slide shows, flip charts and proposals look a little less boring. The presentations faces are Helvetica Condensed, Lubalin Graph and New Baskerville.

The packs are imported by Adobe distributor InfoMagic (9751044). According to Info-Magic's David Fox, the prices are about 20 per cent less than if the typefaces were bought separately.

Also of interest to type fans should be Adobe's latest catalogue, titled Font & Function. It contains not only samples from Adobe's current 250 fonts, but also information of historical origins of the faces; technical information on how download-able fonts work; advice on specific applications; and an interview with Roger Black. Font & Function is available from Info-Magic at$10.

Copyright of John Fairfax Group Pty Ltd