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MacEdition Pro News : October 24, 2002, Bigger, faster keyboard prefs contact helpdesk

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FireWire heats up

Oxford Semiconductor is shipping the first silicon of its new OXUF922 IDE to FireWire bridge to LaCie, making the French drive manufacturer the front-runner in getting 1394B drives to market.

The new FireWire standard was finalized last spring and the new Oxford chipset will double the throughput to 800 Mbps to keep mechanisms using the chipset compatible with systems using the older 1394A standard. The Oxford 922 will also support ATA-6, a new standard used to support hard drives over 137GB. According to the company’s press release, LaCie will be using the new Oxford chipset in a series of upcoming 300GB drives which will employ LaCie’s new D2 case.

“With greater speed, bandwidth and distance capabilities, this second generation of FireWire is bound to become the interface of choice for digital content creators. Oxford’s technological breakthrough will allow us to be first to offer the fastest disks on the market to FireWire users.” said Philippe Spruch, LaCie’s CEO.

James Foster, Director of Oxford Semiconductor, commented, “This order builds upon an established and successful relationship with LaCie and we’re delighted that our innovation will continue to ensure their technology leadership.”

While pricing for the new drives is obviously not available at this time, Oxford notes the new 922 chipset sells for US$15 each with volume discounts available for larger orders.

A case for upgrades

Those hankerin’ for a bigger drive, who can’t wait long, might want to check out WiebeTech’s newest offerings. The Kansas-based company has modified their PowerBridge to provide ATA-6 compliance.

In a white paper, posted on the company’s Web site, WiebeTech notes that most external FireWire drives, which use the Oxford 911 chipset, don’t speak to the new ATA-6 standard used in the larger capacity drives which are now coming to market. As such, those cases are limited to drives no larger than 137GB.

Thanks to the folks in WiebeTech’s product development lab, the company’s PowerBridge IDE to ATA interface (built around the Oxford 911 chipset) has gotten around that issue and the company is now offering an upgrade package for those who purchased WiebeTech’s older models. Those interested in the upgrade offer can place their orders through WiebeTech’s on-line store.

Shortcuts to key combinations

Every typesetter in the world at some point in their career has frantically searched for one of those magical keyboard combinations to create specialized glyphs, accents or other typographical oddities. While countless keyboard utilities exist for the Classic Mac OS, the cupboard has been somewhat less full for users of the newer Mac OS X.

Enter Angelo Scicolone, who has released a new version of XChar, a keyboarding utility that allows users to add specialized characters to text without the enduring the agony of the search, or needing to allocate memory space in their heads to store font trivia.

XChar displays a window containing all the characters that your Mac can display. When you need a character, simply drag-and-drop it where you need it. When you don’t need XChar, you can reduce its window to a small icon and place it where you want on your screen. When you’ll need it again, simply click on it and it will zoom again. Moreover, XChar is a standalone application and doesn’t need any special extension to run.

WHAT’S NEW IN XCHAR 3.0?

  • Now XChar also display HTML codes for special characters
  • Now you can highlight characters to quickly find them
  • XChar window now is automatically moved to fit inside screen
  • Faster application loading and better overall responsiveness
  • Now you can minimize the XChar palette in the upright corner on Mac OS X
  • Now you can set palette translucency on Mac OS X
  • Now XChar supports Mac OS 8.1-9.2.2 with Carbon Lib installed

XChar is a US$10 shareware utility available at Scicolone’s Web site. He also has a package deal available for those who wish to buy his other utilities, one of which is PrefsOverload, a “prefs cleaner” which was recently revamped for OS 10.2.

Preferences are important, but sometimes they can turn out to be completely unnecessary. This can occur when their mother applications don’t exist on your computer. Over time the Preferences Folder will grow and become filled with files created by trashed demo applications, or applications used for a short time only or not used at all.

The trouble is all these unused or unusable files take up valuable disk space!

Another problem is sometimes an application will fail because it has a Preference File that has become damaged, or “corrupted.” In such cases you need to delete this file, after which the application will create a fresh Preference File and run as it did before.

PrefsOverload was designed to resolve both problems. It can browse the Preferences Folder, allowing you to detect unnecessary preferences files, thanks to the information it gives you. Or it can display a list of probably unnecessary or damaged Preference Files, allowing you to delete them or to put them into the trash. Also PrefsOverload allows searching for specific Preference Files, by their type/creator or their creation/modification dates and so on...

PrefsOverload is a US$15 shareware title and can be purchased via Kagi.

Fiddlin’ with the photos

Anybody who has scanned in a photograph and wanted to do more than tweak the contrast might get a kick out of Compositor 2 from Artly There Software.

The newly released image editor contains the normal photo-editing tools as well as a wide range of filters and effects that allow users to do everything to their pictures including turning them into QuickTime animations or making images for 3-D viewing through those red-green glasses.

Compositor edits, creates and re-creates images in myriad fashion. There are over 160 filters and channel variations available, and a new slide show feature as of v2.1. Features include feathered selections, boolean selections, drop shadow, anti-aliased text and more.

Compositor is a US$35 shareware title and can be obtained at Artly’s Web site.

Keeping the contacts

People who need to gather large contact lists for e-mail campaigns might find MaxProg’s eMail Extractor 1.6 to be a handy utility.

eMail Extractor grabs address information from the users’ inbox to build a contact list. That might be useful for processing large amounts of error messages and returned e-mails from mail outs, or building subscriber lists, MaxProg suggests in its press release.

eMail Extractor is a very powerful tool to extract e-mail addresses from all kinds of files. eMail extractor is very fast, easy to use and multithread. eMail Extractor retrieves absolutely all valid e-mail addresses from any file and generates an output file with only good and well formatted e-mails without duplicates.

eMail Extractor supports drag-and-drop from the Finder with both Mac OS Classic and Mac OS X like any other Macintosh tool.

Features:

  • Processes hundreds of e-mails per second from several files at once
  • Retrieves e-mail addresses from your mailbox or any kind of text files
  • Retrieves e-mails from your Internet e-mail subscribing system files
  • Arranges badly formatted files (with several e-mails per line)
  • Customizable extracting settings and rule editor
  • Very fast and multithreaded
  • Processes whole directories using a file queue
  • Easy-to-use, straightforward interface with Drag and Drop support
  • Native versions for Mac OS X and Mac OS Classic

eMail Extractor sells for US$14.90 and is available via the company’s Web store.

Just trying to be helpful

In many organizations the idea of building a program to track help desk is a daunting task and many off-the-shelf programs carry a hefty price tag and sizable consulting fees.

Into that fray comes Web Help Desk, a Web-based application built around Apple’s WebObjects that is accessible on the client side through any major browser.

The management of your IT department’s support requests is an arduous and costly task for most businesses. To maintain customer satisfaction and ensure your company’s success, you need a tool that will organize, administer and deploy your support services across your organization in an efficient and timely manner.

Web Help Desk™ offers a complete support solution that will allow you to track, route, escalate and prioritize your customer requests via an intuitive Web interface. With built-in asset management capabilities, cross-platform functionality, graphical reporting, and much more, Web Help Desk™ will enable your business to provide comprehensive support management for internal or external use.

Features include:

  • E-mail based support requests and updates
  • Automatic support request assignment to group or technician
  • SMS messaging support to technicians with priority filter
  • FAQ file attachment
  • Improved search options
  • Enhanced preferences
  • Seamless database support for OpenBase, MySQL, SQL Server and Oracle
  • Downloadable support request and asset search as a tab delimited file suitable for spreadsheets

Pricing starts at US$3,350 for a two seat license and a maintenance contracts for the software begins at US$650. Government and educational discounts are available and Web hosting services are also available. Interested parties can examine an online demo to check out the program.

Looking for old ProNews segments? Check out our index at http://old.macedition.com/news/. Do you have news releases or tidbits of interest to the Macintosh professional? Send them to pronewsnotes@macedition.com.

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