Macworld Expo Reporter Notebooks: Friday Morning

Virtual PC Goes for a Test Drive

Fresh off sharing a stage with Steve Jobs during the Wednesday Macworld Expo keynote, Connectix executives were busy at the trade show promoting their "test drive" version of Virtual PC for OS X.

Like its OS 9 counterpart, the OS X-native version of Virtual PC runs most PC-based operating systems. You can launch multiple windows at the same time, just as in Virtual PC 4. During a demo at Connectix's booth on the Macworld Expo show floor, product management director Kurt Schmucker had Virtual PC for OS X running Windows 98, Windows 95, and OS 2/Warp simultaneously.

Apart from an Aqua-like interface, don't look for too many new features in the native version of Virtual PC "because most the VPC features are in Windows," Schmucker says. "I can't change that."

The test drive -- which is a free download for registered Virtual PC 4 users -- lacks some of the functionality you'll find in the current version of the cross-platform software. There's no USB support -- loading a driver into Windows won't work. Users won't have full-screen capability when they run Windows in OS X, and dragging files from another operating system out of Virtual PC doesn't work. The test drive is also noticeably slower than Virtual PC 4.

"We set ourselves a pretty high water mark with 4," Schmucker says.

All of those features -- including Virtual PC's speed -- are expected to be restored once a final version ships. And when will that be? Connectix won't say for sure. But the Virtual PC preview expires on January 31, 2002. By that time, Schmucker says, a shipping product will be available, or Connectix will release a second public beta.

Virtual PC grabbed the headlines, but it wasn't the only Connectix news at Macworld Expo. The company released an update to DoubleTalk, which lets users access Windows networks from their Macs. DoubleTalk 1.1 adds network browser support and provides access to an unlimited number of Mac or Windows volumes through the Connectix DoubleTalk Mounter. There's also a new printer setup assistant, alias support, some interface enhancements, and bug fixes.

Will Mac users see an OS X-native version of DoubleTalk? That's been discussed by Connectix, Schmucker says, but with OS X 10.1 slated to include a built-in SMB client for compatibility with Windows PC-based networks, Schmucker adds that an OS X edition of DoubleTalk looks increasingly unlikely. RAM Doubler 9 won't be making the jump, Schmucker says.

Updating Copy Agent to run on OS X remains under consideration. Schmucker says Connectix has noted a fair amount of interest among users for an OS X-native version. -- PHILIP MICHAELS

Dueling Servers

Mac OS X comes with Apache, the world's most popular Web server, already installed. So that's the end of the line for Mac Web server software companies, right? Not so fast.

First, there's the re-emergence of WebStar, the longtime favorite Mac Web-serving application. WebStar followers rightly wondered what sort of future the server would have on OS X. Surely a Carbonized version of the old software wouldn't be able to keep pace with Apache running natively in OS X's Unix layer.

As it turns out, the second part is true -- and that's why 4D, the new owners of WebStar, decided instead to write a new version of the server from scratch -- and write it in OS X's BSD Unix layer. "It's BSD with a crunchy Cocoa shell," said C.J. Holmes, WebStar's director of engineering.

While Unix does the heavy lifting behind the scenes, WebStar Server Suite V (in public beta now, due to ship later this quarter) is administered via a Java-based tool that looks like any other Aqua application. But because it's in Java, it means that Windows users will also be able to administer WebStar servers running on OS X.

And according to Holmes, this new OS X version of WebStar is much faster than OS X's built-in Apache and it supports both standard Web server CGIs as well as older WebStar-compatible plug-ins and CGI applications.

Meanwhile, Tenon is showing off the latest version of iTools, its software that enhances Apache with a friendly, Web-based administration interface. Not surprisingly, Tenon President Anita Holmgren expressed skepticism over 4D's approach with WebStar -- but then again, that's what competition is all about. Holmgren contends that Apache, with the strength of the open-source community behind it, is a much more appropriate base on which to operate an OS X Web server.

No matter who's right, the fact remains that OS X's arrival hasn't killed the Mac Web-server market. In fact, it's heating it up. -- JASON SNELL

FileMaker Goes to Unix

FileMaker's new $999 FileMaker Server 5.5, which runs on OS X and is due to arrive on July 30, is another application that's benefiting from OS X's Unix core. This new FileMaker server is Unix software with a Cocoa front-end for administration purposes. The result? It's fast and efficient like a Unix app, but with the friendly interface that Mac users expect.

The side benefit is that FileMaker expects to ship a version of FileMaker Server 5.5 for Linux as well. Oh, and there will be a Mac OS 9 version too -- but based on the old FileMaker Server 5.0 code.

A 5.5 version of FileMaker Developer is also due by this fall, featuring more developer utilities, including script debugging and better reporting on database status. -- J. SNELL

Another Slice of Toast

iTunes could be in for some competition. Roxio, makers of the Toast CD-burning application, issued a free preview release of the OS X-native version of its software. Toast 5.1 is the first third-party product for burning audio and data CDs in OS X.

According to Toast Product Manager Victor Nemechek, this preview version has about 80 percent of the features of Toast 5 Titanium. Missing features include the ability to burn disc images, Mac volumes, and enhanced CDs. Only ATAPI and FireWire CD-R/RW drives are currently supported, but those include the latest 24x writers on the market.

The preview version expires on October 1, and there will most likely be additional preview releases before the final OS X-native version is ready -- however, no firm ship date has been set.

Also on the horizon from Roxio is an update to its powerful audio CD-mastering program Jam. Jam 3.0 will offer 24-bit support, dithering capabilities, and will run natively in OS X. -- JONATHAN SEFF

Strata's Sphere

Strata is returning its focus on the Mac by placing an emphasis on rich media on the Web.

Formerly VideoShop, Strata DV has gotten a new interface; unlimited video, audio, text, and MIDI tracks; and on-the-fly filter rendering for more accurate representation of video.

Strata DV also includes Sorenson's ACE technology -- used in the new Sorenson Squeeze -- for easy compression of your finished video for output to the Web.

The product comes in a free edition as well as the $195 Plus and $495 Pro versions.

Strata 3D also comes in three flavors: a free version, a $149 Plus version, and an $895 Pro version. Feature sets vary according to price.

Strata is aiming its product at graphics professionals used to Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator who want to get content on the Web, rather than those proficient in the more complex -- and expensive -- 3-D packages available. -- J. SEFF

Norton Personal Firewall No Longer Sees Double

Symantec updated its Norton Personal Firewall utility last month to run natively on OS X. But Mac users had to make a small tradeoff when it came time to install the Internet security product: they had to install the utility twice -- once in the native layer of OS X and once in the Classic layer.

Personal Firewall's double installation requirements are no more, however -- at least if you're running OS X 10.0.4. That update to the operating system resolved the quirk that required you to install the Symantec utility twice. Now, Personal Firewall users need only install the application once in the native layer to enjoy all of its features.

Symantec believes Internet security -- and the software that provides it -- will become a bigger area of interest as more people move to cable modems and broadband Internet connections. "People will see a firewall utility the same as having a front door on your house," predicts David Loomstein, group product manager for Symantec's consumer products division. "It's probably going to be more of a day-to-day concern than viruses."

Besides Personal Firewall, Symantec's Norton AntiVirus also runs natively on OS X. Norton Utilities has yet to be Carbonized, although the software will run in OS X if launched from a bootable CD or OS 9 partition on a hard drive. Symantec plans to update Utilities for OS X, though Loomstein declined to give a time frame. -- PM

Nemetschek Draws Up OS X Plans

It's been a busy year for Nemetschek. The CAD software maker has already updated its flagship product VectorWorks as well as one of the applications in its VectorWorks industry series, VectorWorks Architect. In addition, the company rolled out two new products -- VectorWorks Landmark and VectorWorks Spotlight.

Next up for Nemetschek is an OS X-native version of VectorWorks.

The company was showcasing an initial version of VectorWorks for OS X at its Macworld Expo booth. Nemetschek plans a public beta, though no release date has been set. But Dan Monaghan, marketing director of Nemetschek, says the company hopes to have a finished version ready later this year. Right now, the plan is to release the OS X version as a free update to VectorWorks 9 users.

Nemetschek believes its CAD programs will be a good fit for OS X's powerful graphics capabilities. But there are other features the company plans to take advantage of by Carbonizing VectorWorks.

"CAD apps are memory hogs, and one of the most antiquated features of the Mac OS is the memory partition," Monaghan says. "In an OS X-native VectorWorks, our users won't have to set the memory partition anymore." -- PM

Alsoft on X

Alsoft has a straightforward plan for bringing DiskWarrior, its disk-repair utility, to OS X. First, make sure the application works with the same functionality, stability, and performance that the OS 9 version enjoys. Then worry about adding new features.

Still, that doesn't mean DiskWarrior, currently in development as an OS X-native application, will look exactly like the current version. For starters, the graphics are getting a new Aqua-fied look. The version Alsoft's Al Whipple showed off at Macworld Expo even has a flashy logo for OS X's dock -- a knight's head.

But there's more than a cosmetic change in the works. Under the current version of DiskWarrior, users have to wait until the application does its business. The OS X version -- with a sheet attached to the DiskWarrior window instead of a modal dialog box -- lets users work on another task while the rebuild is going on.

Expect to see DiskWarrior for OS X around the time Apple releases OS X 10.1. Alsoft will charge some kind of upgrade fee, though that's yet to be decided. Whipple notes that Alsoft has never charged more than $30 for a software upgrade. -- PM

Groovy, Microsoft

When it comes to its Macworld Expo keynotes, Microsoft is beginning to look less like a software maker and more like MGM. The company's presentation at January's Expo in San Francisco included a video parody of HBO's racy Taxi Cab Confessions, with several of the jokes coming at the expense of Microsoft and the general manager of its Mac business unit Kevin Browne.

How to top that for Macworld Expo in New York? Before Browne took the stage for his speech, a video reminiscent of the Freedom Rock CD commercials that air continuously on cable was shown featuring hippies running through fields, joining hands, and celebrating the Microsoft-Mac partnership -- all to the melodious strains of Happy Together by the sixties' one-hit wonders The Turtles. The camera pulled back to reveal Brown showing off the commercial to an actor bearing an eerie resemblance to a certain billionaire who serves as Microsoft's chairman and chief software architect.

"What do you think, Bill?" Browne asks in the video.

"I don't know," says his boss, shot from the back, much like the president of the United States in a 1930s movie -- or like a Bond supervillain, depending on your point of view.

"I like it," responds Browne, giving the cheesiest double thumbs-up ever recorded on videotape.

If this software development thing doesn't pan out, there's always Hollywood to fall back on. -- PM

Jason Snell, Jonathan Seff, and Philip Michaels contributed to this report.

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