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Max 3.0 7, Skinnyshort & Software upgrades

Apple Notes By Martin Russ
Published May 1995

Martin Russ brings you the latest Apple news.

This month: new software upgrades, and how to surf the net from your mobile phone..The recent Sound On Sound/TSC‑sponsored seminar on hard disk recording and MIDI sequencing at Abbey Road Studios was a great success — over 300 people attended. Representatives from Apple, Emagic, Steinberg and Digidesign gave presentations, and there were also sneak previews of the new Windows programs from Opcode: OMS, Vision 2.1, and Galaxy, as well as Studio Vision 3.0, and MAX 3.0.

Version 3.0 of Studio Vision Pro sports several new features: most notably free conversion between audio and MIDI, so you can take a digital audio track and convert it into MIDI data (complete with MIDI pitch bend and modulation information) and then transform it back to audio again after editing. DSP plug‑ins have also been added, as well as Digidesign DAE/TDM support, and Pro Tools III compatibility.

MAX 3.0 exploits the new timing facilities to the full: timelines and synchronisation can be controlled by MAX patches. Double‑clickable 'stand‑alone' applications can be made by 'bundling' a patch and other files into special run‑time players — with no licence fees or additional charges. Expect one or two useful MIDI gadgets from myself, for example!

A PowerPC native version of Overture, the notation package, should run at much faster speeds. PowerPC native code is also promised for the latest acquisition by Opcode: DigiTrax from Alaska Software, founded by the Apple engineers who developed the core of the Apple Real‑Time Architecture (ARTA) signal processing engine. DigiTrax 1.2 is a multitrack digital audio recording and editing package based around a 'tape‑like' user interface, and features QuickTime interworking, and SMPTE and MIDI synching.

On The Net

The Internet is always changing. Apple have recently updated the graphics on their World Wide Web page. The new opening page looks much more hi‑tech, and a simple mouse click takes you to other pages.

The special edition of Scientific American shown here is sponsored by Apple Computer, and has some glimpses of how future computers may look and work.

The 'smiling man' new logo for the Mac Operating System may also become very familiar when the new update to System 7.5 becomes available. Rumour has it that the traditional Mac startup screen will be replaced by the new logo. Update 1.0 will contain lots of minor bug fixes and newly updated versions of the component pieces of software.

Overall, Apple's home page is well worth a visit:


Just about the last place that you expect to find praise for a Macintosh is a PC magazine. But that's exactly what has happened with the 1994 Technical Innovation Awards from PC Magazine. The Best Desktop System award went to the PowerMac 8100/80, whilst the Editorial Fellows Award, which is reserved for the 'year's most significant development' went to OpenDoc. OpenDoc is an object‑based approach to document handling — you work with a document rather than an application, much as you might currently with a piece of paper. OpenDoc will be a part of future operating systems, and is already supported by Apple, IBM, Novell and WordPerfect. It should be available for Mac OS, Windows, OS/2/Warp, AIX, Unix running on Intel, PowerPC and other platforms.

New Old Field

As mentioned in the Mike Oldfield interview in February's SOS, the new CD from the tubular bell‑ringer, Songs of Distant Earth, is inspired by the SF novel of the same name by Arthur C Clarke (one of my favourites, if a bit of a tear‑jerker at the end). As you might expect, given this scientific connection, the CD makes use of the latest technology: one of the tracks uses QuickTime 2.0 to provide a seven‑minute track that displays images inspired by the book. Despite his name, Mike Oldfield is obviously breaking into new fields!

Friendly Natives

If there's one question which crops up every time I speak to Mac users these days, it's PowerPC native code. Is such and such a piece of music software native yet? When will it be? Does it work with the modem port? Should I buy a PowerMac? Trying to get answers from manufacturers isn't easy, with rather too many 'very soon' and 'next quarter' responses.

With this in mind, future Apple Notes columns will include any news about genuine 'available now' sightings of native music software. No vapourware, no 'unstable' applications and definitely no promises. And you can help — I can't possibly test everything myself! Let me know if you spot anything worthy of inclusion — I will need three confirmed reports before it gets a mention, and you might get a mention too!

Tip Of The Month: Using Skinnyshort

Eagle‑eyed readers may have spotted that my screen dumps don't look the same as the displays on their Macs. This is because I have substituted the system font in my Mac for one which is specially optimised to be as small as possible whilst still being (just) readable. This allows you to fit more onto your screen, and is useful when you're dealing with large numbers of files in the Finder.

The font is called SkinnyShort and is available in most collections of PD and Freeware fonts. There is also a slightly larger variation called Skinny, and italic versions of both which make Aliases just about readable. Both SkinnyShort and Skinny are screen bitmap fonts, based on nine‑point Geneva. According to the creator, James Bucanek of Midnight Software Development, an even more crushed font might be forthcoming!

Once Skinny is installed in your System Folder, you just ask your Mac to start using it as the font for all your displays. This is done from your 'Views' Control Panel.

How It Works: The Mouse

Although you may use one every day, the inner workings of the humble computer mouse aren't immediately obvious: so, how do they do that?

The button on a mouse is simple: it's just a switch. Most mice use tiny switches about 7 mm square, which provide the tactile feedback using a collapsible plastic dome. The button you see is nothing more than a cover for a rod which presses the switch when you click the mouse button.

Turning mouse movements into directional indications is easier than it might appear. Inside the average ordinary mouse is a ball, which rolls around on the mouse mat as the mouse moves — there's some Teflon pads on the mouse to make it slide around more easily [unless yours have fallen off — Ed]. As it rolls, the ball pushes against two rollers, on each of which there is a disk with slots in it. On either side of the disk is an LED and a photo‑sensor, and as the disks rotate, they allow pulses of light through from the LED to the photo‑sensor. These pulses are converted into electrical signals, which are buffered by a small integrated circuit and then passed along the mouse's tail (the cable) to the Mac. Clicks from the switch are debounced so that only clean 'button press' events are presented to the Mac's operating system. The direction pulses are converted into screen positions by counting pulses and working out where the mouse has moved to.

So, now you should know why your mouse doesn't work when it's upside‑down (the ball doesn't touch the rollers), or why dust stops them working properly (it clogs up the slots in the disks), and why cats don't eat them (cats don't eat plastic). Of course, some types of mice are really clever — they use optical sensors instead of all that ball, rollers and disk stuff — and they will work upside‑down!

Apple News In Brief

    Hannover's CeBit information technology and telecommunications exhibition was held in the second week of March. CeBit is the largest show of its type in the world, and provides an ideal opportunity to see how the fields of computer technology, communications and media are rapidly moving towards each other. Apple, IBM and Motorola had a strong presence — one of the 25 halls (apologies if this sounds like another Frankfurt Musik Messe report) was devoted to the PowerPC/PowerMac computers. Motorola were showing a range of PowerPC‑based PCs, whilst IBM showed a notebook‑sized PowerPC computer which has a built in camera for video conferencing.
    PowerMacs are currently enjoying some spectacular prices, sometimes about half of the original launch price. For example, a PowerMac 7100/66 machine can now be bought for well under £1000. As usual, this is because new, faster models are in the pipeline, but it is nevertheless a very good time to get a powerful machine at a bargain price. The problem with this sort of 'making way for replacements' bargain is that stocks will sell out quickly — by the time you read this they may well all be sold. However, it is no secret that Apple usually announce and/or release their new machines at the start of April, and this pre‑emptive price‑cutting does seem to regularly happen in March. Remember this for next year!
    Naming their Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) the Newton has to be the silliest link between Apple and one of their products. But with bargain packages and some interesting new hardware appearing, now is not the time to write off PDAs forever. If you take a Newton MessagePad 120, a Nokia 2110 card, and a mobile phone, together with a Cellnet Group Systems Mobile (GSM) connection and some GSM software in the Newton, you can set up a mobile data connection using the GSM radio standard, so that your Newton can communicate with data services whilst mobile — no modems or connections to fixed telephone lines are needed. The complete GSM bundle costs over £1000, although trade‑up deals are available if you have an earlier Newton model.