News and commentary from the cross-platform scripting community.
cactus Mail Starting 11/10/97

From: rjm@medlabsouth.co.nz (Richard Massey);
Sent at Tue, 11 Nov 1997 15:22:00 -0700;

I'm not a programmer, I'm a pathologist. What I know is all self taught. I began with a Mac Classic, a machine that I still have good memories of. Subsequently I also encountered DOS, Windows 3.1, 3.11 and 95. I even have supported a small DOS/Lantastic network.

What you have touched on in Rastas! is one of the key advantages of the Mac, Productivity. This is productivity for users ie "Dave the writer" Vs "Dave the programmer"

The Mac presented me with immediate productivity and at the same time made exploring the system easy enough that I was also able to add software, configure software and modify the system with relative ease.

When I subsequently encountered Windows/DOS I was appalled to discover the unnecessary complexity of these operations and what could easily happen to a previously stable system. I would not have been able to put in the time required to mount that learning curve from scratch, unassisted.

Once you have mounted the daunting Windows learning curve (and I still see our IT staff regularly taking days to sort out problems triggered by a software or hardware change in our PC's) the system issues diminish but the productivity issue remains.

From where I sit programmers seem to see things differently. They see little difference between the machines, both have sophisticated development environments and both now have similar or comparable system strengths and weaknesses. The hardware markets have no comparison. Programmers do not find the interface quirks a barrier beceause they operate with the underlying "machinery" and are less surprised by the surface inconsistancies.

The problem is that most of the software market is programmer driven (for good historical reasons). Few commerce graduates haven't done computer science papers. Interface issues, in particular the contribution an interface makes to productivity, are given a low priority.

The graphic arts and publishing industry is different. These are artists who as a rule have no computing backround and do not understand nor wish to understand the arcane complexity of their systems. They are also wedded to their Macs. Many commentators find this surprising, which surprises me. They also understand the productivity argument and purchace on productivity assessments rather than simple cost.

The IT departments that I have dealt with are uninterested in productivity, they have a computing model based on hardware costs. Productivity and support costs are not considired.

Web design is currently programmer driven. The tools (eg Frontier) are geared to programmers (loose use of term). This will change.

I don't know how to promote the concept that to spend more is to do more and save (for many reasons) but if the Mac is to survive this has to be.

I don't know if my ramble is of any value but I was struck by earlier statements to the effect that developing on Windows was rewarding and then this one and wondered if this was related to the switch in usage mode, developer -->user.

Please try to promote a user perspective. The Mac has major advantages from that there (not ignoring the negative :-) ).

From: dbuell@smartsoftonline.com (David Buell);
Sent at Tue, 11 Nov 1997 03:36:09 -0700;
Re:Jobs was Boring

Overall, I agree with you. These moves will hopefully result in a stable, profitable business that caters to creatives world-wide. However, I guess that means that they are no longer in the OS business...a side effect for pundits like you to ponder in your spare time.

A note on the presentation itself:

It's unfortunate that they had to twist facts when they presented the PowerBook:

One of the slides called out a price of $5600 for a 233-mhz NEC Wintel laptop, yet I ordered that EXACT same notebook *directly* from NEC last weeek for $4400. Even after adding a few do-dads (modem/ethernet PC card), it was only like $4700 complete. And that was with 64MB of RAM versus the 32 that Apple offers. (And suprisingly, the Apple Store doesn't even *offer* a RAM upgrade as an option for the G3 powerbook). Kinda slimy to serve up a price to match the Apple machine, when reality offers up the wintel notebook for a grand less.

I called when we got home, and they quoted me two weeks. I can compare this with the info I got from Dell last week, where they quoted a 2-week turnaround as well. I guess Steve PJ will have to get the delivery time down if Apple intends to beat Dell in this department.

An observation:

As I checked out the Apple order system (actually placing an order for 2 systems), it was interesting to note how easy it was to keep adding a little of this, and a little of that, capturing high-margin dollars for Apple that would traditionally have been lost to the dealers.

From: pfterry@altagroup.com (Fred Terry);
Sent at Mon, 10 Nov 1997 19:37:02 -0700;
Re:Jobs was Boring

Liked the tone of your piece. What's worse than Steve being boring is that the machines he is touting are not cutting edge. The cloners were ready to ship machines based on the Arthur technology months ago. To add insult to injury, those clones were better equipped and, in some cases, could be purchased more cheaply.

I think I would have been happier if Steve had announced a merger with Oracle. At least there would be something more interesting to ponder. This is just same old same old. Yawn.

From: shoch@assetman.com (John Shoch);
Sent at Mon, 10 Nov 1997 19:36:09 -0700;
Re:Jobs was Boring

I think you had a pointer (or a mention) in an earlier piece, to the Apple home page, for info on the new PowerPC G3 machines:


Have you looked at that info carefully?

Take a moment to go look at the "Different Chip" page, and the "Performance" comparison bar chart.

There are three bars: G3 266MHz, P-II/300Mz, and P-II/266MHz.

From the bar chart, the G3 looks a LOT faster than the P-II/300MHz, which is a bit faster than the P-II/266MHz.

But something looked odd, so I printed it out. With my trusty ruler, I measured the delta for G3 over P-II/300 as about 3x the delta of the P-II/300 over the P-II/266. (22mm in one delta vs. 7.5mm in the other = 293%).

But the actual delta in seconds is listed as 106.9 sec vs. 96.5 sec, so the delta between the top two bars should be 111%.

They scaled the bars differently, it seems, to make the G3 look even faster!


John Shoch

[PS: It's an old graphing trick to just chop off all of the bars, to make a marginal delta look bigger; but this one seems to be changing the scale on each bar.]

From: eric@soroos.net (Eric Soroos);
Sent at Mon, 10 Nov 1997 19:31:46 -0700;
Re:Jobs was Boring

Well, Looking at their sales policies, I don't like what I see.

from http://store.apple.com/Catalog/ic_prod/Images/salespolicies.html

If you pay by credit card, items in stock are shipped within one business day after Apple processes your order. Build-to-order products are custom-made to your specifications and are shipped approximately two weeks after Apple processes your order.

If Apple cannot ship your order within 30 days of receiving your payment, you will be notified and given the option of canceling your order and receiving a refund. Should you choose to leave your order in effect, you will have an additional opportunity to cancel the order and receive a refund every ten days thereafter.

In that quote, the phrase 'process your order' refers to them getting your money. Leaving aside the 2 week time frame for them to build a machine and get it out the door, I'm not really happy that they would charge a credit card before the product actually ships. Most reputable mail order vendors that I've dealt with don't do that.

From: martinh@netscape.com (Martin Haeberli);
Sent at Mon, 10 Nov 1997 18:24:41 -0700;
Apple, Education, and the Power of 10

I got a call from an Apple colleague today, telling me about this cool new stealth Education-affiliated Sales program (I'm sure Apple would call it a Marketing program), called Power of 10, which was apparently announced last week.

Basically, the plan is this:

1) Anyone who buys any of ten qualifying products directly from Apple by calling a special 800 number between now and the end of January can designate 10% of the purchase price of that product to the school of their choice, by filling in a coupon, and sending it in by the first of March.

2) The school designated will get a voucher to spend that money on Apple products.

Great plan - Apple has also undertaken the effort to get the schools engaged as advocates on Apple's behalf, encouraging parents and businesses to buy these specific Apple computers so that the schools can benefit.

It sounded cool. Then I asked some questions. Here's what I observed:

1) You can only find out about this program, if you're a random person, by following the Education link from the Apple home page. I was surprised to see no direct link from the Apple home page to this program.

2) This program only applies to Apple's choice of ten different configurations. It does not apply to any of the newly-announced products.

3) This program only applies to orders made through a special 800 number. It does not apply to web-based ordering only available for the new G3 products.

I'm writing you by way of encouraging discussion and awareness of this program, as well as by way of encouraging Apple to think even bigger than they have.

Thanks, and hope you're still surviving the rain.

From: meerkat@flash.net (Wes Simonds);
Sent at Mon, 10 Nov 1997 17:08:36 -0800;
politically correct rivalry

Like many others, I was at first disappointed that the Jobs Event today was full of easily-predicted revelations. However, there was one surprise, and I think it's probably being underestimated. I certainly did not foresee that Jobs would take aggressive and deliberate aim at Michael Dell and his company, and I think that can only work to benefit Apple.

Healthy rivalries are great media magnets and serve to sustain the rivals in tough times. I've read statements from tennis superstar Pete Sampras a number of times bemoaning the absence of such a rivalry in professional tennis in which he explicitly states he wishes Andre Agassi were in fighting form.

Has Jobs found his Agassi? Or (put another way) is Jobs assuming the role of a high tech Agassi, coming back from a fitness clinic, in the best shape of his life and challenging Sampras?

Certainly Michael Dell is better suited to play such an adversarial role than Apple's traditional nemesis Bill Gates. Gates's Office is essential to Apple's ongoing health, but if Dell went out of business tomorrow, I think Jobs would cheerfully dance on his grave.

From: rob@eyegive.com (Robert Grosshandler);
Sent at Mon, 10 Nov 1997 13:21:31 -0700;
Re:Houston to Austin

http://www.snadboy.com/ - topdesk 3.0b. From the toolbar, brings up a list of icons (i.e. programs) from your desktop. No need to move the desktop around, then to find something.

From: kennyg@infi.net (Kenny Gatdula);
Sent at Mon, 10 Nov 1997 13:20:26 -0700;
Re:Houston to Austin

You can use alt-tab to scroll through your open apps. That's *the* coolest windows feature. The windows key is the worst feature. It's a hotkey to bring up the taskbar. It's a bug, IMHO.

I've hit that key so many times accidently, usually playing Quake, and it completely hoses the game.

BTW,I don't have those extra keys on the clone I have at work. I guess it only comes with the "Ready for Windows" keyboards. I wonder how much the OEM's have to pay for that? MSIE on the desktop? :)

From: dglynn@mathware.com (David Glynn);
Sent at Mon, 10 Nov 1997 13:18:09 -0700;
Windows peeves

Just a tip you might find handy. If you have a pile of windows open(like if you're a mile and a half down a directory tree on a disk drive) you can slam all the windows shut by holding the shift key and clicking in the X in the upper right hand corner of the last window. Actually, in any window at all it closes all of it's "parent" windows. Try it out!

Maybe this means there is something in the Win32 API that you can get a handle on, eh?

From: mgarland@wso.williams.edu (Matt Garland);
Sent at Mon, 10 Nov 1997 13:16:00 -0700;
apps menu in Windows.

Searching for ya... though I have an Biochemical Regulatory Mechanisms essay and a Developmental Bio test tomorrow! Sheesh, where are my priorities?

You should go here:


and look at a few of the tray enhancement programs. One of them might give you some of the the functionality of the application menu. Perhaps QuickSL? It should work in NT... don't worry that the URL is windows95.com. :)

Then, you can click on the Start Menu and and drag it up to the top of the screen. I kinda like it there because it makes for less mouse movement between a program's menu and the Taskbar. Windows has a bug that may put the tops of maximized windows under the start menu in this configuration ... a small program called ShoveIt fixes this problem by checking every five seconds for windows under the taskbar and pushing them right below it. Works great. Available at


Good luck... I'll let you know if I find anything else that might help you find an app menu.

From: johnlu@MICROSOFT.com (John Ludwig);
Sent at Mon, 10 Nov 1997 13:15:17 -0700;
Re:Houston to Austin

The Windows logo key performs the same function as ctrl-esc -- it brings up the start menu. The menu key is like right clicking and brings up the context menu normally, but this is under app control.

I find myself using the windows logo key a lot. I don't personally use the menu key that much but then i don't use context menus that much.

From: gcheng@uiuc.edu (Guanyao Cheng);
Sent at Mon, 10 Nov 1997 10:23:29 -0600;
Windows logo key.... re:Houston to Austin

The windows key is a shortcut to select the start menu, so when you press that key, the start menu should pop up... That is most annoying because when I reach for alt or control, invariably I will hit the windows key...

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