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Date: Mon, 6 Feb 1995 22:38:14 -0800
Sender: TidBITS - a newsletter for Mac users
From: "Adam C. Engst"
To: Multiple recipients of list TIDBITS
Check out this issue for tales of customer service in regard to
companies like La Cie, FWB, Microsoft, MacZone, and Hayden.
We also pass on everything you could want to know about
earthquakes on the Internet, a NewtonGifts submission address,
news of a major new FTP mirror site at, surprise, America
Online, and the announcement of a FullWrite upgrade and demo.
Finally, Chuck Bartosch reviews TFLX, which provides voice
mail on the Mac.
This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
* APS Technologies -- 800/443-4199 --
Makers of hard drives, tape drives, and neat SCSI accessories.
For APS price lists, email: <----- NEW
* Northwest Nexus -- 206/455-3505 -- http://www.halcyon.com
Providing access to the global Internet.
* PowerCity Online -- <email@example.com> Email sales of
40,000+ items for Mac/PC. Send email with Subject: Order Info
* Hayden Books, an imprint of Macmillan Computer Publishing
Save 20% on all books via the Web -- http://www.mcp.com
Copyright 1990-1995 Adam & Tonya Engst. Details at end of issue.
Customer Service Tales
A digitalNation Network
TFLX: Iconic Voice Mail for the Macintosh
**AOL Mirror Site Opens** -- America Online continues to show that
it intends to be a serious member of the Internet community with
its latest service, a large FTP mirror site. Most of the other
commercial Internet providers have concentrated their efforts on
providing Internet services to their customers, thus increasing
the load on the Internet without giving anything back. We applaud
AOL's move to give something back to the Internet; the Internet
has always operated on a high level of cooperation, and it's nice
to see a commercial service like AOL pitch in.
The AOL FTP mirror site says, "This site is made available for
Internet users to access the AOL service remote FTP sites mirror
array. America Online users should access these archives through
the "FTP" keyword on the service." They also note that if your FTP
client uses the "PASV" command for establishing the data connect
when getting a file, you risk colliding with their Internet
firewall (and hanging the connection).
Current mirrors include:
* /pub/cica winftp.cica.indiana.edu:/pub (Windows files)
* /pub/guitar ftp.nevada.edu:/pub/guitar (guitar info and tablature)
* /pub/info-mac sumex-aim.stanford.edu:/info-mac (Info-Mac Archive)
* /pub/mac mac.archive.umich.edu (Umich Mac Archive)
* /pub/rtfm rtfm.mit.edu:/pub (FAQ files)
**FullWrite Update and Demo** -- If you've never tried FullWrite
2.0, now is your chance - Akimbo Systems has released a demo
version. If you already use FullWrite 2.0 or 2.0.1, now is the
time to get the 2.0.2 update. The update fixes an assortment of
problems, and from the look of the change history, makes FullWrite
an all-around more robust program. The change history also
mentions a few extension conflicts and suggests updates and fixes.
Akimbo has released the update as a patching program, and you can
find it on most online services. The update is also available on a
floppy disk for a $7.50 shipping and handling charge.
FullWrite users should also note that last fall Akimbo Systems
released a Learn Selection extension, which enables FullWrite to
add batches of words to a FullWrite 2.0 user dictionary and to
convert FullWrite 1.7 user dictionaries into FullWrite 2.0 user
dictionaries. Akimbo Systems -- 800/375-6515 -- 617/776-5512 (fax)
-- -- [TJE]
**Peter Lewis** writes in regard to
fingering for earthquake information:
You can also just paste Finger URLs into Finger 1.5.0 [Peter's
Finger MacTCP-based Finger client], or, if you see them in a
Usenet news posting that you're reading with NewsWatcher, you can
just Command-click the URL to pass the URL to Finger. A Finger URL
**Carsten Klapp** writes:
Our online service is in the process of starting up a NewtonGifts
file distribution system similar to MacGifts
, which forwards freeware and
shareware Macintosh file submissions to an interested group of FTP
sites and BBSes.
If your FTP site or BBS is interested in participating, either as
a re-forwarder or just as a subscriber, please contact me.
Please note that this is _only_ for Internet FTP sites and BBSes
with a direct link to the Internet. Our site does not have the
facilities for NewtonGifts to be a mailing list for the general
If you wish to submit a Newton-related file to NewtonGifts, please
send it to .
Customer Service Tales
by Adam C. Engst
We don't like to continually pass on tales of customer service
bliss and woe, but we do receive a fair number of them, and every
now and then it seems appropriate to pass on the more interesting
**Chad Magendanz** writes:
I recently received **50 copies** of the MacZone catalog.
Actually, I didn't receive them directly. They were all addressed
to me, but delivered to my in-laws. (Apparently, my last order was
delivered to that location.)
I called MacZone to inform them of the error and ensure that they
won't repeat the mistake. They told me they were sorry, but they
couldn't access the database from sales and they couldn't transfer
me to someone who could. In order to ensure that my in-laws don't
get another 50 copies next month, I'd have to send in all 50 of
the little enclosed envelopes with copies of the back page of the
catalog and ask that they remove each entry from their database.
(Unfortunately, I've already sent the spurious 49 copies of the
catalog to recycling, making this impossible until the next
iteration of the error.)
I like to think of this as natural selection at work in the free
enterprise system. With outfits like MacConnection and
MacWarehouse, survival of the fittest will almost certainly mean
death to MacZone with this kind of administration. I find myself
wondering that if I should ever again feel the urge to order from
MacZone again, will I receive 50 times my order? Will I be charged
For the present, I'm going to see how many catalogs I can collect
from MacZone until I run out of storage space. Then I'm going to
label them all "Return to Sender," drop 'em off at the post office
and see if that grabs their attention.
**Raja Hornstein** writes:
I bet you've seen the ads for Microsoft Office. I get about one a
week in various catalogs or computer magazines. Have you noticed
that they are offering a CD-ROM version of the Mac/Power Mac
software? I loved that idea back in, oh, September when I first
placed my order. I just didn't want to deal with all those floppy
disks. Well, I wasn't surprised when they delayed the ship date to
December. That's ol' Microsoft, you know. In December, I got a
little postcard (very little, plain brown) asking me to call if I
was still serious about getting the CD-ROM.
I had an interesting talk with someone about easy it would have
been to miss that card and then they would have dropped my order
without telling me. He agreed that was dumb, but you know....
So then they postponed 'til February, and my last call revealed
that Microsoft won't ship 'til April. The reason was interesting.
They don't expect the patch to deal with Word 6.0's lethargy until
March, and they didn't want to send out an imperfect CD-ROM
because you can't patch a CD-ROM. I pointed out that the program
will find its home on my hard disk which wouldn't know whether it
came from floppy disks or from Mars and could be patched either
way. And since when are CD-ROMs so expensive that they couldn't
send out a new one? The person on the phone wasn't into technical
The reason I mentioned those ads at the beginning is to question
whether or not it's legal for those catalog companies to advertise
something that doesn't exist. Isn't that false and misleading?
Wouldn't people be up in arms if Microsoft had placed ads for
[Catalog companies probably fall under the rubric of "publishers;"
like MacUser or Macworld, they can't necessarily know if the
products advertised are available or accurately described.
However, Microsoft has been chastised by catalog companies,
resellers, and other vendors (both Windows and Macintosh) for
advertising the availability of products and then delivering
several months after the promised date or (in some cases) not at
all. For instance, just try to purchase Encarta 1995 or Ancient
Lands for Macintosh, although they've been advertised as available
for months. Although slips seem to be unavoidable in the software
industry, Microsoft's product announcement tactics are currently
one subject of a U.S. Justice Department investigation. -Geoff]
A little story. I ordered some software from a company called
Transparent Language. It's a foreign language study program. They
were a month late in delivering it. They sent me a check for $6.00
as an apology for not living up to their promise. I was
flabbergasted. One month late!
Can you imagine a law required companies to pay a fine to
customers when their vaporware doesn't materialize on time? Bill
Gates would be squeegeeing windshields on the Bowery.
**Michel Donais** writes:
I need to congratulate a company that _really_ thinks customers
are important. I completed a WWW survey for Hayden Books a few
days ago. I've just received an email message saying they lost the
survey data because of a bug, and they'd like me to fill it out
again. In exchange, they'll send me a free book.
Now, this is something. Most companies would say "Eh, it's just a
survey. We can get more responses where that one came from," but
Hayden obviously felt that my survey response was important enough
to ask me to fill it out again in exchange for a free book. This
is exceptional behavior in these fast food days.
**Bill Wing** writes:
Two years ago I purchased a La Cie 3.5" magneto-optical drive for
my IIci. After a year and about three weeks, it failed with
symptoms that seemed to indicate a bad power supply (it wouldn't
power up when I flipped the power switch - no indicator light but
the fuse was okay). I called La Cie:
"I know the drive is out of warranty, what do you charge for
"We don't offer a repair service."
"Say what? You repair drives if they are _in_ warranty don't you?"
"So OK, I'm not after free service, I want to pay to have the
"We don't offer repairs."
"You mean I can't _pay_ you for a repair job?"
"No, we don't offer repairs."
I eventually managed to convince myself that they weren't kidding,
they simply don't want to mess with repair service for their
drives. The drive was purchased early enough in the 3.5" magneto-
optical technology cycle that I had some concerns about being able
to read the disks (I had a drawer full) written on that drive with
a drive from another vendor - which was why I had a strong
interest in fixing that particular drive. They wouldn't fix it.
They would, however, sell me a new drive with the same
"guarantee." I said thanks, but no thanks, and ordered a drive
It came, I put it into service, and breathed a sigh of relief when
I found I could read my old disks with the new drive. This year,
three weeks after the warranty expired, the FWB magneto-optical
drive went belly up, or rather started making a noise that sounded
like a bad bearing. I checked, and it wasn't the fan, so I called
"I have this 3.5" MO that is about three weeks out of warranty.
How much do you charge for your repair services?"
The nice guy on the line gave me a run down on their pricing, but
"Let me see if I can get an OK for a return authorization. We
really ought to fix it under warranty."
He did, they did, and I now have my FWB back and in service with a
replaced mechanism. FWB has earned a lot of my future business.
A digitalNation Network
by Mark H. Anbinder, News Editor
Director of Technical Services, Baka Industries Inc.
digitalNation, a FirstClass-based online service operated by
Computer Services Group, Inc., (CSGI) is now available locally in
the Miami area and worldwide on the Internet.
CSGI is one of the first organizations to take full advantage of
SoftArc's new TCP/IP-capable FirstClass Server software, version
2.6, released last year (see TidBITS-252_). Users of the
FirstClass Client software may access digitalNation at IP address
188.8.131.52 port 3004. (FirstClass Client 2.6 is required; the
Mac version is available at the below URL.)
digitalNation is also available for text-based access through the
FirstClass command-line user interface at IP address 184.108.40.206
port 3000. Both graphical and command-line access is available by
modem at 703/642-0453.
A new digitalNation server is available in the Miami area by modem
at 305/859-9287. CSGI president Bruce Waldack says the new system
will provide "a highly localized, easy to use point of entry onto
the information superhighway," as well as specialized software
libraries and discussion forums that have become popular on
digitalNation. Each of the digitalNation systems, in Baltimore,
Washington DC, and now Miami, also offers location-specific
information such as arts and cultural listings, current events,
and special areas for local educational and non-profit
FirstClass 2.6 performs well even on modem Internet connections
such as SLIP or PPP services offer. Internet connections by modem
won't provide better throughput than direct FirstClass modem
connections, but can eliminate long distance telephone charges.
CSGI -- 703/642-2800 -- 703/642-0453 (BBS)
SoftArc -- 800/364-1923 -- 905/415-7000 -- 905/415-7151 (fax)
905/415-7070 (BBS) --
by Adam C. Engst
There certainly seems to be plenty of interest in earthquakes and
the Internet. I received a number of requests to reprint last
weeks article about earthquakes (TidBITS-261_), along with a "Nice
Timing!" note from Carl Bowser of the University of Wisconsin, who
used the article as a handout about what could be done on the
Internet for a class in "Computer Applications in the Earth
Sciences." Here then, are some of the more interesting comments
**Stefan Kukula** writes:
Thanks for your description of what you did after _your_
earthquake. I was reading TidBITS at work this morning, and
realized I had one of the affected HP DeskWriters, then read your
piece, and realized I hadn't any more. In fact, I don't have a
computer or apartment any more. (Our ten story block has become a
nine story block.) Having been pretty much smack on the epicentre
of the Kobe earthquake at the time, and feeling lucky to be alive,
I'll hope you'll forgive my comment that I think a potential
shortage of LCD displays is a fairly minor problem compared to the
rehousing and rebuilding tasks ahead.
Nevertheless, perhaps such industry repercussions will make people
pay more attention to just how fragile our world can be. A big
earthquake in the Silicon Valley part of California could mean
deep trouble for the computer industry, and such a possibility
might be a good argument for firms to consider relocating. I can
see the PR now... "Move to Scotland's 'Silicon Glen' - the
geologically stable alternative."
Still, it's nice to be able to write with something other than my
usual complaints about computer support for overseas users! ("I'd
like a new tectonic plate; our current one has a design flaw....")
**Ian Feldman** suggested that we also note a Web
site that's reporting on the effects of the recent terrible
flooding in Holland.
Although we don't want to become a disaster reporting service, I
think it's interesting how the Internet, and the Web in
particular, has changed the way some of us think about the world.
Not all that long ago, disasters were something that happened far
away, and few people heard about them until afterwards. More
recently, radio and then television brought the latest news and
images of disaster into many homes, with that momentary horrifying
image or sound bite that squeezes forth emotion but not
understanding. Now, with news travelling between individuals on
the Internet faster than radio and television crews can mobilize,
and Web sites springing up overnight to gather and present real
data about a disaster, I think we can start to move beyond that
instantaneous upwelling of human sympathy to a more rational and
long-lived understanding of what these events truly mean to the
**Jeremy Crampton** writes:
In reference to your earthquake experiences, some of what you did
(taking USGS data and feeding it to the Xerox PARC Map Server) has
been set up automatically by folks in the Department of Geography
**Richard Smith** writes:
My colleague, Jim Macinnes has rigged up a web
page that lists the latest geophysical disturbances in several
regions. No knowledge of Finger or arcane reading skills are
needed as the data is nicely formatted and presented. The latitude
and longitude coordinates are turned into hypertext links by some
more "perl-of-hand" and linked to the Xerox PARC Map Server.
All in all it is a smooth and elegant solution. The work has been
undertaken as a joint effort by the Centre for Policy Research on
Science and Technology and the David Lam Centre for International
Communication, both at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. The
programming credit goes to Jim, though.
**Jozsef Urmos** writes:
There's no need to manually feed the earthquake coordinates info
to the Xerox PARC Map Server to get a map showing the epicenter
location. You might try
to get maps of epicentral locations generated automatically from
the Xerox Map Server. When you connect to these pages they
initially finger the Earthquake Information Center to get the
latest list of quakes and then generate a page where you can
select any of those recent quakes to give you a map showing the
I think this is probably one of the best (and neatest) uses of the
net. I'm impressed by the manner in which several different
information sources can be creatively combined to give something
so much greater than any of the parts.
**Mary Corman** wrote to pass on the URL of
an earthquake information page that has links to just about
everything you could want, seismologically speaking.
TFLX: Iconic Voice Mail for the Macintosh
by Chuck Bartosch
A company like mine, with more than one location and seven people
trying to retrieve messages while out of the office, presents
significant phone management difficulties. Possible solutions
include hiring a receptionist and hoping the receptionist doesn't
call in sick, hiring an external answering service (which I hate
using as a customer), or finding another solution. I've looked at
some of the software-based options in past years, and had never
been satisfied with the voice quality. But, I kept looking because
if I could solve this problem for my company, my company could
solve similar dilemmas for our clients.
**First Impressions** -- After seeing a short reference to Magnum
Software's TFLX product in a Mac periodical, we called their
non-toll-free number for a demonstration of their phone answering
system. It seemed to work, so we ordered a copy of TFLX and the
associated hardware. TFLX is an interesting voice mail system that
can be controlled from a computer as old as a Mac Plus with a hard
disk drive and preferably 4 MB of RAM (though it can run in 2.5 MB
Our initial experience with TFLX was frustrating. The company's
software only works with their own hardware (which is a good
thing, I suspect), but you can't buy into the base level system
for less than about $500. They offer no free trials, no money-back
guarantees. Not auspicious. Nonetheless, they did agree in the end
to take the product back, if necessary, in 30 days for a 10
percent restocking fee. We bit. We were so excited, we paid to
have the product rushed to us for Saturday delivery.
Things got scary fast. The manual was missing every other page.
Seeing myself as a reasonably clever guy, I almost tried to
implement the system even with only half the pages. I'm glad I
didn't waste my time. I got _real_ scared though, when I called
their non-toll-free tech support line and it rang... and rang...
and rang.... "Oh no," I thought. "Did they leave town already?!"
Let me say right here, the product is good, and I _do_ recommend
it. Nonetheless, it's not a journey for the faint of heart. Turns
out Scott, one of the authors, stays around until about 2 AM his
time, and answers the phone that late. He forgot to turn the
system on when he left the day I needed to leave a message. They
got a new manual to me the next day and apologized.
So, I started the "Read Me First" section - and was totally
confused. Not only is the manual riddled with (minor) errors, but
some of the descriptions were terribly incomplete. Like "Some
model Macintoshes have a microphone jack in the back. DO NOT plug
the TFLX audio or microphone cables into this jack." OK, fine,
they scared me. I had no idea which jack was which, and they never
told me what to look for. Yes, we figured it out, but wasted a bit
of time doing so. Even a spell checker would have helped the
manual (unless "Magilbox" is a new industry term that has escaped
The first time I ran the software, I got an immediate, cryptic,
error message in a dialog box "Unable to Load STR# 9997,1". Gulp.
A call to Magnum tech support identified the error as an
unidentified model of computer (a PowerBook 540). Turns out this
was important, though I didn't learn that until later.
I had numerous, frustrating crashes, or what seemed like crashes
as I worked through the tutorial. When the system thinks it's
recording something or in the middle of a call, _everything_ else
freezes, even SuperClock and mouse movement. I now think some of
my crashes weren't exactly crashes but a jaundiced outlook on my
part. In the end, I eliminated all crashes but one by setting an
obscure parameter appropriate to my PowerBook. Again, Magnum's
technical support led me through the solution. This problem could
arise with any new model of Macintosh, it turns out. The other
reproducible bug is an avoidable problem with Option-dragging a
text box to copy it, and - now that they know about it - Magnum
plans to fix it for the next version.
**Programming TFLX** -- In spite of these problems, development
went smoothly, especially after I figured out the program's
philosophy. Most important, the tech support was absolutely first
rate. I got through every time up to about 2 AM and the help was
comprehensive. (They don't advertise tech support to 2 AM and
presumably it isn't dependably available.) Even when I was being
an idiot they patiently led me through the steps necessary to
complete my tasks and showed me tricks to speed my testing. Though
it was always on my dime, the support was worth it. The fact that
they were never condescending brightened my outlook immeasurably.
TFLX uses icons to program the steps in routing an incoming call.
The program has "speak icons" to speak messages and it can
construct completely new messages like "the time is 8:18 PM" by
stringing together stored words and phrases. You can use supplied
sounds or record new ones.
You can easily see (and print) the logic of your program since
it's all graphically displayed. For example, to program a
voicemail function to retrieve a message, you'd need an icon to
speak a greeting when a user calls in, a line drawn to the next
icon that accepts keypad input from the phone, a line from there
to Accept icons that see the input and determine which branch the
program should follow, a Message Retrieve icon, and a Quit icon. A
Message Retrieve icon gives you options for listening to messages,
deleting them, and traversing them, all without any effort on the
designer's part. Once you understand the flowchart-like
programming paradigm, it's incredibly easy and you can make
**TFLX Hardware and Software** -- The TFLX software comes in two
sections: the development tool and the runner application. The
runner simply runs what you've developed. The cool thing is, the
runner can be set to accept keyboard input so you don't have to
dial your phone continually to test what you've done.
The software itself comes in various modules. The base module does
basic incoming call routing and retrieving. Optional modules
handle fax-back, database connectivity, and videophone
Database connectivity offers some especially neat features.
Imagine a client calling with an urgent pricing question when
nobody is available to take the call. With a supported database
and password protection, clients can retrieve prices, issue
purchase orders to you, and even use the phone response system to
log orders by entering part numbers when prompted. I don't know
how practical some of this is, but the possibilities seem endless.
Because TFLX uses its own hardware to digitize sound (one reason
the sound quality is superior to others we'd tested), you have to
buy a "box" for each phone line in addition to the software. Also,
it requires a computer for each line. That would be outrageous for
even a four-line office if it weren't for the fact that a Mac Plus
can handle the program (by design). A 4 MB Mac Plus with a decent
hard drive costs about $250.
In implementing this system, we had to be concerned with the
dislike many people have to voice response systems. In our case, a
voice response system makes us more efficient and allows us to
serve our clients more quickly and less expensively. Even so, we
plan to listen to our clients closely as we continue to develop
Magnum Software -- 818/701-5051 -- 818/701-5459 (fax)
* MacWEEK -- 30-Jan-95, Vol. 9, #4
LANsurveyor 2.0 -- pg. 27
KPT Convolver 1.0 -- pg. 28
Peirce Print Tools 1.0 -- pg. 28
Multimedia Utilities 1.0 -- pg. 30
* InfoWorld -- 30-Jan-94, Vol. 17, #4
Internet Servers -- pg. 68
BBN Internet Server
Sun Netra Internet Server
BSDI Internet Server 1.1
Slackware Professional Linux 2.1
SCO Global Access 3.0
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