I've finally upgraded to System 7.5. I encountered only a few problems while installing; for potential upgraders, here's what caught me out.
I used the 'Easy Install': a couple of button presses and the machine goes away for 15 minutes and copies files from the CD (or floppies if you choose that media option when you buy the new system). The problem is that it installs all the files which might be needed -- and this includes files intended for other Macs. I found files for PowerBooks, Monitor Drivers for big screens, and a host of other System Extensions and Control Panels, so I eventually decided to remove everything and start again with a 'Custom' install.
The 'Custom' install provides a list with the small triangles which should be familiar from the windows in the Finder. You click on them to expand the file listings. In this case, you can use the cross-boxes to select only those parts that you need. For example, Apple Guide is very nice, but it uses lots of disk space, so you might consider leaving it out if you're short on space or rarely need to ask for help. The same goes for the powerhouse features of QuickDraw GX (desktop print icons, portable documents, etc) and PowerTalk (networked mailbox and email features) -- only install them if you need them.
Apple provide comprehensive information on the new facilities in System 7.5. -- contact your local Apple dealer for more information.
Getting onto the Internet can be challenging. Learning all the new vocab ('Gopher', 'ftp'ing', 'WWW'), as well as coping with smileys and IMHOs, can be very taxing. Worse, immersing yourself in net-surfing may get you out of your depth, both metaphorically and financially.
An alternative to going fully-Internet-equipped is to try a halfway house. Two of the most useful aspects of the Internet are email and newsgroups. Email lets you communicate with other computer users around the world rapidly, easily and cheaply, though
the initial investment in equipment (computer, modem, software) and phone bills mean that you aren't going to break even very quickly...
Newsgroups are a way of receiving news only on the topics that you want -- imagine a newspaper which only has pages relating to a specific subject. You can browse through topics and read the reports you find interesting. With 30 million or more people on the net, there is a huge range of subjects.
To access email and newsgroups without the hassle and expense of a full Internet connection, you could try one of the Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs) which provide a taster of the net. MacTel are probably the best example -- they have been active in the Macintosh world for many years now (apparently, they were the first Mac BBS), and offer an ideal introduction to computer communications via their two bulletin boards, Iconex in Nottingham (0602 455444), and Metro in London (081 543 8017). As well as lively on-line conferences, you get a selection of Mac-relevant newsgroups and email facilities.
A typical wander around Iconex produced a menu offering folders with names like 'PowerPCSpecial', 'CD-ROMS on line', and 'Games Special', as well as a chance to check out some of the 24 Conferences currently running. Some of these are of immediate interest to musicans, for example the 'Musicians and MIDI', and the 'For Sale/Commercial' conferences. I took a look at the MIDI conference, which was pretty quiet, but it did contain another conference, titled 'Audio/Video'. This proved to be an active forum, with 35 people sending messages on a number of topics, including Non-Linear Broadcasting, the best stereo you can buy for under $500, and the possibility (or not...) of buying a decent subwoofer for under $300. The system even has a Usenet screen with help and hints which can be useful when logging on for the first time.
MacTel charge £23.50 for six months subscription, or £39.95 for a year, and the Internet extras (email and newsgroups) cost an additional £11.75 for six months -- although they did warn me that excessive use of the Internet facilities might incur charges by usage rather than by the flat rates.
You will need a modem capable of sending and receiving at a baud rate of 1200 or higher, set to 8 data bits, no parity and full duplex. If you send them an HD disk and an SAE, they will send you some suitable Mac software and the latest version of the Disinfectant virus killer program. Write to MacTel, c/o ExMicro, 32 Musters Road, West Bridgford, Nottingham NG2 7PL. Tell them Martin Russ sent you!
One of the on-going problems with using a computer is storing information. The name that you think of for a song today will mean lots less in six months' time, and be incomprehensible in a couple of years -- what exactly did 'S34T2PR5.SNG' sound like? Storing files starts out easy -- you just click on save, type a name and press the 'OK' button. But once you have more than a dozen or so files called Song 1 to Song 12, you need to start scrolling up and down the list on the screen, and remembering what number song you are working on can get difficult. What you need is a method of organising files.
The Mac already comes with an excellent method for organising files: folders. But many people, and some programs, don't like navigating through layers and layers of folders. What would really be useful is some way of sorting files into a known order, or even into groups, but without the complication of folders.
There is a way, and it's easy -- provided that you have access to some unusual symbols and know how to use them. See the separate table in the 'Symbols' box for some of the odder symbols available on the Mac, and how to generate them. Whilst some of these are a bit wacky, with obvious uses for decorative purposes, you can use them to group files, and even to determine how files are displayed in file open dialogue boxes...
The key to using symbols is the order in which the Macintosh sorts them. Usually, selecting View by Name sorts the files into alphabetical order. This is OK whilst you have files which start with ordinary letters -- but what about numbers, or symbols? You can probably guess that numbers come before letters, but what happens before '0' and after 'Z'? Below is a chart showing the symbols in order.
You put a symbol in front of the files which you want to group. For example, Classical music files could be preceeded with a ¢ symbol: ¢ Mozart K223. Pop Songs could have a $ sign in front: $ Big Earner. If the files are now viewed 'By Name', they will be sorted into groups depending on the symbol, so the pop songs will be first, then miscellaneous files starting with the letters a to z, and then the classical files. Since all the ¢ files would be grouped together and sorted alphabetically within the group, it is easy to find the file you want, without having to search through several folders, or through the whole set of files.
To have files which you use frequently appear at the top of the list of files in the 'Open...' dialogue box, precede the filename with a space character, since this has the highest sorting priority of all the symbols. If you want to put a file right at the end of the sorting list, you use an Apple symbol!
The EUREKA Longitudinal Time Code Codec chip from Hinton Instruments is an advanced device designed to provide high-performance reading and generation of SMPTE and EBU time code signals. It is designed to translate from the FM-encoded Time Code data into separate Clock and Data signals, suitable for interfacing to a USART in synchronous mode. Unusually, it has also been designed to interface easily with the Macintosh's serial ports, as well as with designs without microprocessors. Fabricated in 1-micron CMOS FPGA Programmable Gate Array technology, evaluation samples of the EUREKA chip are now available. Contact Graham Hinton on 0373 451927.
With Apple selling lots of PowerMacs, and the possibility of a bundled 'Houdini' plug-in board to allow Windows software to run at full speed, it looks like the long-rumoured take-over may now be officially vapourware. With the PowerPC chip, compatibility with the PC, the delays in the launch of Windows 95, and the IBM Warp attack on Microsoft, things look very good for Apple, and very bad for Microsoft. Any bets as to how late in 1995 Windows '95 becomes actually available to buy?
RAM DOUBLER: PAINLESS UPGRADE
The sole casualty of the upgrade to System 7.5 was my copy of Connectix's excellent RAM Doubler, which 'doubles your RAM' with very few side effects. One of the advantages of buying it from the 'Instant Access' CD-ROM is that they are always available by phone for upgrades -- the phone is their shop-window! So a quick call to Instant Access had the 1.5.1 upgrade disk winging its way to me: Free! With service like that, you might wonder why anyone would buy software from any other source. Contact Instant Access on 081 205 2596.
CD-ROM: NO MORE FORMAT WARS
Apple is supporting a project to unify the different CD and CD-ROM standards into the CD Plus standard. Sony, Philips and the Recording Industry of America (as in RIAA equalisation for vinyl pickups) intend to define a single, all-purpose CD+ format which will remove incompatibilities between drives. A CD+ drive that would read any format of CD or CD-ROM would probably assist the increasing convergence of the music and multimedia industries -- which is not helped by the fact that current CD players can't play CD-ROMs.
MODEMS: JUST THE FAX, MA'AM
The price/speed ratio of modems continues to improve. The US Robotics Sportster 28.8 now offers 28.8 kBaud for under £300, whilst the popular US Robotics Sportster 14.4 will provide 14.4 kBaud for under £140 if you shop around. If you're shopping for a modem, look for one that is BABT approved (the green circle), go for as fast as you can afford (14.4 is fine for most purposes at the moment, unless you are a very serious Internet user), and check any bundled software. Most modems now offer fax and data transfer, although you will probably need to have your Mac powered up to receive faxes, which removes some of the advantage.