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News Of MacOS 8

Apple Notes By Martin Russ
Published August 1997

After much ado, it seems MacOS 8 is finally going ahead. Martin Russ brings you the latest Mac‑related news and tips.

Just when you thought that news about new operating systems had been done to death, Apple announce details of the forthcoming MacOS8. So far, the details I've seen confirmed are restricted to a few intriguing aspects of the new Finder, although QuickTime 3.0 is also likely to be included.

The screen shot on this page shows some not‑so‑amazing features such as the new System Font, a big picture used as the background, and a Copy dialogue box that looks very like the one already available in Symantec's CopyDoubler. The pop‑up menu that accompanies a Control‑click on an object or window is also new, especially with the context‑senstive contents — and, in the example shown, it offers commonly used operations on a file. You can also see the Pop‑up window tabs that can be stored at the bottom of the screen. Any connection with similar features in Windows 95 or NT 4.0 is coincidental — and the way that MacOS8 windows can be dragged by the edges does not seem to be as useful as the Windows 95 resizing by the edges.

But some of the new features are more interesting: the Threads support that has been gradually appearing in MacOSs finally allows more than one file operation to happen at once — which is why the screenshot shows the Trash (Wastebasket) being emptied at the same time as the file copy is happening. But, more importantly, when a process in a window will take some time, control is handed back to the user while the processing carries on in the background, indicated by a spinning arrow in the window's header. This is rather like the background audio processing that you find in Mark Of The Unicorn's Digital Performer.

So, from just the evidence of the Finder, there are some new features, but quite a few are not as innovative as you might expect from Apple. Given the pain of the last couple of years of upgrades to System 7, MacOS8 needs to find a compelling reason for us to change. I'm still waiting.

Crashing Bore

It happened to me. There I was, just writing Apple Notes, when I thought that I would save the work so far. Saving your work frequently is normally one way of protecting yourself from those unexpected crashes that sometimes happen. But in this case, my Mac crashed as I tried to save my work. And it happened again, and again.

At moments like this, when an application starts to misbehave, you suspect the application first, so I re‑installed it. Nothing changed. Distressing things like re‑installing the operating system begin to come to mind, but then I remembered a tiny news item about something called the CFM68K Runtime Enabler — an extension called Code Fragment Manager. Apparently, this little system extension (which first appeared with System 7.1, although it works with MacOSs up to the current 7.6.1) had an annoying bug: although it was designed to enable programs to run on both 68K and PowerMacs, it made 68K Macs crash.

Because the CFM68K Enabler is required by some programs, it tends to get installed as part of them, so there's the potential for lots of problems later. I happened to have found one of them. The easy solution is to look in the System Extensions folder and move the CFM68K Enabler out of it — put it into an Extensions (disabled) folder, and reboot. I did this initially and the problem went away. A better solution is to visit Apple's MacOS WWW site and download the latest update: version 4.0, which cures the problem. System 7.6.1, in fact, will only work with version 4.0.

Name, Rank, Number

Some things are just so simple they border on being obvious. But it's the obvious things that sometimes get missed. This glaringly easy way to determine whether your recent Apple Macintosh computer has a PowerPC processor inside almost escaped my attention...

If the number of your Mac model has three digits, then it is likely to be a 680n0 processor. But if there are four numbers, then it is probably a PowerPC.

So, for example, the Centris 610 that I use, the Quadra 700, the PowerBook 150 that I use when mobile, and the Performa 630 all have three digits, and they all have 680n0 processors: in fact, they are all 68040s. In contrast, the PowerBook 3400, Performa 6320, and PowerMac 9600 all have PowerPC processors. You can also extend this to the clones: all clones have PowerPC processors, regardless of their numbering!

On The Net

For an alternative view of the world of MacOS, then you could visit, which brings together snippets of news from a diverse range of sources, and is thoroughly recommended.

Apple News In Brief

    I made the mistake of mentioning last month that we could expect to see clock speeds of perhaps even 300MHz in MacOS machines by the end of the year. Well, here we are a month later, and the PowerMac 6500 Home Office has a 300MHz processor. The PowerBook 3400 has a 240MHz processor, and rumour still insists that the 500MHz processor is not that far away. Thank goodness for the 30mph limit in some villages around here.
    For some time now, serious multimedia has only been available from a WWW browser if you start by downloading an audio plug‑in; a MIDI plug‑in; a Shockwave plug‑in; and probably a few others too. Perhaps one of the few non‑plug‑in bits of neat screen animation that's looking possible is the animated GIF picture. But this may be changing. Some of the latest multimedia programs now package themselves up inside a Java 'wrapping' that means they need no plug‑in. Now I know that this was always the intention of Java, but it's good to see it finally happening. The days of the burgeoning plug‑in folder may be numbered.