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ATPM 12.03
March 2006



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REALbasic 2005 Review

Thanks for your reviews and comments of REALbasic. My six-month license period just expired two days ago! I was quite pleased that RB2006.1 was released just a few days before that. I started with 2005.1; RB has put out an impressive five releases in this period, and each seems to address some of the (many) annoying issues. I have the single-platform product.

I am surprised that neither Messrs. Ross nor Kubie mentioned (or noticed?) another target audience that RB seems to court somewhat aggressively, that is, former (and perhaps, disenfranchised?) Visual Basic developers. I am not from those ranks; my background is 20-odd years software development primarily on VAX/VMS platforms, with wide exposure but focused on VAX-BASIC and what was formerly Digital’s RDMS database product.

Since retiring from that, I have been dabbling—rather extensively—with AppleScript and Visual Basic, and now REALbasic. AppleScript is, for me, quite disappointing; I echo and amplify Mr. Kubie’s complaint that it is very picky about syntax, as well as frustratingly unhelpful (I admit I’m spoiled by the VMS online help and documentation, hands-down superior to everything else I’ve seen). I echo Mr. Ross’ observation that AppleScript is somewhat at the mercy of uneven implementation among the many applications that support it; of course, that broad reach is also its major advantage. Too bad it is so dog slow. VB runs slow circles around it.

Despite VB’s critical shortcomings, it has some very nifty, unique features, for example the immediate mode interactive programming (I’d love to see this from REALbasic). However, I would sentence to a painful drawn-out torture anyone remotely responsible for the dire, dismal, dreadful documentation—no, it cannot rightfully be called that; VB doesn’t have documentation. So woeful, so erroneous, so egregious; it bespeaks unbelievably callous disregard for the customer, and for a product costing hundreds of dollars, and years—decades—on the market. Completely unacceptable.

REALbasic would be hard-pressed to begin to reach that level of incompetence and thoughtlessness—unfortunately, they do seem to try. It’s by far the weakest component of their ambitious, object-oriented, multi-platform undertaking. Just hiring high-school seniors to proofread it would improve.

I haven’t had much luck with the “community links” they provide for alternative support (more like, commiseration?), but on Mr. Ross’ advice I am joining the mailing list with renewed hope.

I’ll end this awful rant with this simple reminder: with good documentation, a very bad programmer can produce surprisingly good results; without it, the most skilled programmer is severely undermined.


Thanks For ATPM

I thank you for sending this to me free, and my Pensioned Pocketbook thanks you too. My son, a Switcher, has just bought the new 20″ iMac yin/yang, and I am sending him this URL/issue for his enlightenment. I’m “suffering” with my 17″ PowerBook G4…but someday.

In any event, you have provided me with good useful information gleaned from your hard work, and I just wanted to let you know of my appreciation from the Mediterranean shores of Bella Napoli.

—John McMahon, Apples Forever-’83, and a Mac Evangelist-’86

Google Tells Big Brother to Take a Hike

The explanation of how Google does what it does is here; another concern that I have developed recently is that the sampling technique proposed by the government’s expert might very well indicate a much higher proportion of pornographic searches than are performed by actual humans—the pornography industry, in order to gain data to manipulate search results, makes many automated queries to the Google servers in violation of the terms of service of Google. Where in the filtering process used to try and prevent such automated queries (assuming that there is one) does the government expert begin his sampling?

Does Google risk either (1) misleading the government, which could potentially be a felony (a felony of the sort that destroyed Arthur Anderson), or (2) admitting openly that they don’t have a foolproof (or even very effective) way of recognizing the automated queries, which would encourage more mischief. Even if the actual content of the queries is protected by court order, and not made part of the public record, it is hard to see how issues related to the second risk won’t become public by way of inference from the Google data.

What Google does for us is something that most of us (outside of the rarified Artificial Intelligence community) have never had a machine do for us before a few years ago: arrive at strategies to find the right data.

Can strategies exist in the absence of privacy? At the same time our government is attacking Google, they are reserving for themselves a right of privacy for their own information gathering apparatus, which they maintain can’t work appropriately without that privacy. In a democracy, can the government really have such an asymmetry in informational power compared to the people? In verifying that a particular system is secure and capable of preserving the privacy of its users, the consensus seems to be that open source software is superior to a closed source solution—but for search engines, the opposite might well be the case.

Thanks to Ellyn for bringing this controversy a little more down to Earth.

—Drew Arrowood

• • •

Google is applauded for saying no to the U.S. government in cooperating with an ongoing investigation into child pornography, and is applauded for its efforts in cooperating with Chinese censors. This seems to me to be both inconsistent and obviously hypocritical.


I don’t believe I said anything about China in the column, but I will suggest a way to think about it so that it is not inconsistent. You can play along or not, of course, as you like.

The issue in the United States is not one of censorship. The Justice Department wants to prosecute people who violate a pornography law. Google is not censoring anything, and neither is the government. Google has been asked to help with detective work, and refused. They are not cooperating with the government because it is not in their interest to do so (they want to protect users’ privacy) long-term.

In China, the question is of whether it is appropriate for a search engine to screen out results because the government says so. I see this as censorship, but since users will get a notice on the Web page saying the results have been pruned, it does not seem so bad to me. Someday it will change. Google is cooperating with the government in this matter because it is in their interest to do so (long-term, they will have established themselves as a useful tool).

—Ellyn Ritterskamp

iSongBook Review

I love Tivoli Audio, too! If you want something more reasonably priced, I highly recommend the Tivoli Pal (they also make an iPal in the iPod white color). It’s a little radio with a long-lasting battery in it. It has one auxiliary input, so I plug my iPod into it. It only has one speaker, but the sound is great for a speaker of that size. I use it for by my computer for near-field listening. Then I have a nice sound system for better listening. But I highly recommend it. And the battery makes it very portable.

—Daniel Edwins

EarThumps Review

Well, now is your chance to try them. They’re on sale for $12.34.

I’ve got a pair of the Sony Fontopia’s and I love them. I wanted to get a pair for my wife, but was waiting for them to go back on sale. I’m gonna try these and see how they compare. Oh, and for the record, I’ve had the Fontopia’s for about a year and the cord hasn’t disintegrated at all. I use them for daily commuting on my bike, as well as weekend mountain bike rides, so they definitely get a lot of abuse. I don’t know why other’s have had bad experiences with them.

—Aaron Marks

Networking Question

I just read Matthew Glidden’s article on LocalTalk-Ethernet bridges which was very informative. However it didn’t quite address a problem I’m trying to solve.

I have a LaserWriter II NTX, which uses LocalTalk. I want to hook it up to a Ethernet network and use it as a network printer. Is there a way to do this other than by using a hardware bridge?

If not, what might be the best hardware bridge to use?

—Mark D. Randall

The best way to do what you want to do is with a hardware bridge. My recommendation is the AsanteTalk.

—Evan Trent

Thanks For All the Fish

Well said indeed. April 1st will be excellent timing for a new beginning.

Since I switched from Windows and bought my iMac in June 2005, I have noticed a significant trend leaning towards attracting the other 95% of the market.

The Mac mini, Mac OS X 10.4, the new mouse, iPod Nano, and iPod Video, and hardware upgrades all came hurriedly within a spate of a couple of months.

With the new Intel chip, finally there is now level playing field. First we have MacBook Pro and the new iMac. With the coming Mac mini and iBook, the barrier to entry will diminish, and we will see the floodgates open and a tidal wave of new Mac users.

To complete the Intel transition on April 1st would indeed be icing on the cake.


Yup. No joke. :-)

The (new) competition isn’t (only) Microsoft but also Dell and HP. Just like the game shifted from IBM to Microsoft in the early 1990s, it’s shifting again.

It’s very hard to see where the chips will fall, but definitely the landscape is going to be shaken up and there will be (significantly) more, not fewer, Mac users in the coming quarters.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see increasing numbers of staff defects from HP, Dell, and the legacy OEM manufacturers to Apple to build out the new OS X PC production business engine.

—Angus Wong

Outliner Speed

The thing that bothers me about modern outliners is their speed. (I’ve used TAO 1.1, OmniOutliner 3 Pro ,and Mori.)

I have an approximately 1,000-page outline in MORE 3.1 that is fast and reliable. It take literally hours to import into these modern programs. If I run MORE 3.1 under Basilisk II emulation on my Toshiba R100 at 1/4 processor speed it takes seconds to load. Same with Classic on my 933 MHz G4 tower with 1 GB of RAM.

On the Windows side, ECCO Professional is similarly fast, though my outlines are not nearly so large in that program.

Mori can only handle one line of text per outline item (which scrolls off the edge of the outline). This is unacceptable for an outliner.

TAO is promising but has a continually changing and awkward interface. (Why is the Gather dialog OK button not accessible from the keyboard?)

OmniOutliner does not have clones. They responded to my feature request by saying, “Unfortunately due to the complexity of cloning we weren’t able to add it to Outliner 3,” but they are apparently considering it.

What has happened to programming? I recently set up a Quadra 605 computer for the 12-year-old daughter of some friends of mine who is working on her first novel. MS Word 4 and MORE 3.1 work great under System 7.1. Try and run a modern outliner on my wife’s dual G5, and it can’t even handle a decent sized project.

This is progress? MORE 3.1 is the greatest program ever written, bar none, and I feel like I’ll be cobbling together emulators forever.

—Randall Voth

Also in This Series

Reader Comments (1)

Louis Nauges · March 10, 2006 - 11:56 EST #1
I deeply agree with your comments on More 3.1. I keep using it every day for professional presentations of up to 1 000 slides ; it works perfectly on my Powerbook G4.

This could be the only reason why I would not be able to switch to a new Intel Macbook Pro, unless I can find one way, anyway to keep running More 3.1

I hope someone will find, soon, a solution.
If you have any hints, I would be very happy to learn about it.

I also hope someone will find a way to run OS9 on the new Intel based machines ;this would solve my problem.


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