Field Reports

Hot topics and goings-on in the NeXT user community

Threads from the Net
Splinter groups. Underscoring the continuing growth of NeXT traffic on the Net, the groups have splintered again, to eight groups. The old comp.sys.next.announce, programmer, sysadmin, and misc have been joined by groups for advocacy, hardware, marketplace, and software. Flame wars can now blaze in the advocacy group while For Sale and Want ads will go in the marketplace group. Overall traffic in the various NeXT groups is up, on average (to well over 100 messages a day), and over one recent weekend, 616 total articles were posted across all the groups: 38 percent in misc, 16 percent in programmer, 1 to 2 percent in announce and marketplace, and 10 percent for each of the remaining groups.

Fit to print. Reading the Net is like having 50,000 friends telling you the latest news you don't miss much. Lately, posters spotted NeXT articles or ads in the Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, Byte, MacWeek, Dr. Dobb's Journal, several object-oriented software magazines, Popular Science, Computer Shopper, IEEE Spectrum, Fortune, and even Supercomputer Review. The new marketing slant (mission-critical custom apps) was argued back and forth, and though the new ads were declared wordy, many readers felt they were the right way to reach the intelligent readers that NeXT was targeting. The diversity of magazines now being reached and the repetition of the ads were considered a good sign: NeXT is finally on the move.

Give and take. Some developers consulted directly with their user community via the Net recently, starting debates on policy and exploring new options for software delivery and pricing. Among the interesting developments: RightBrain's decision to ship source code for some of its apps, and Stone Design's extremely low educational prices (a trend started by Lighthouse Design). This healthy back-and-forth between software deliverers and customers benefits both parties and also helps to define the NeXT software market.

Lead by example. NewsGrazer, the simple but oft-used news reader, is still in limbo. Despite a groundswell of support, this unsanctioned app (originally written by Jayson Adams while at NeXT) was never officially adopted by NeXT, and it is beginning to show signs of age. Despite a recent bug fix (a nice gesture by someone at NeXT), NeXT's policy is still confused (despite the official nonsupport, bug reports can be sent to an e-mail address at NeXT). NeXT should remember the clever and appropriate solution used for Backspace and make News-Grazer an Example. This would allow it to stay officially unsupported yet make its source code available to the community.

Sound offer. An unofficial offer by a NeXT employee to supplement the NeXT's system beeps went Net-wide recently. Amateur sound-makers might now be immortalized in the .snd header of a new NeXT-STEP system beep, if their sound is deemed worthy. This seems like an exciting taste of the future of collaborative computing on a large scale. Imagine how productive NeXT could be if it could harness the positive energy of the Net to improve NeXTSTEP.

Basic black. Amidst the on-going discussion about CD-ROM, some posters complained that NeXT's new drive lacks aesthetic correctness. Without a proper NeXT logo, and lacking any NeXT-like fins or ribs, it just doesn't seem like a true NeXT device. It seems that being black isn't good enough anymore.

Odds and ends. One poster saw prices for a NeXTSTEP-capable '486 EISA (not the faster JAWS) color system drop to around $3000 recently, far from the $10,000 some people thought was more likely. With SuperVGA, rudimentary NeXTSTEP may be less expensive than we thought. . . . More posters have been selling NeXTcubes and NeXTstations (as well as copies of Mathematica, perhaps due to licensing hassles?) recently. Many are upgrading to new machines or unloading their optical disk drives, yet selling prices remain high. NeXTs are keeping their value. . . . As interest in NeXT ISDN grows, readers are itching to get their hands on ISDN locally. One reader's woeful tale of over a year of wading through ignorance and bureaucracy with a local operating company suggests that the ISDN future may be more ephemeral than thought.

User Group News
Dutch treat. The Netherlands group, NOW, sponsored the first Netherlands-wide user group meeting, with 200 invited guests. It took place at Holland's largest NeXT center, The Interpersonal Computing Group. There were presentations by NeXT Benelux, Adobe Europe, and a showing of the NeXT-WORLD Expo keynote video.

Vendor support. GUN (New York) has secured corporate sponsorship from five companies that have responded with equipment, time, and money. Working with Marble Associates, GUN is offering its members SLIP connectivity to the Internet. It is also building gateways to other groups, like RMNUG (Denver), that offer their members similar services.

Virtual groups. Some user groups based on interest areas instead of geographical areas exist only on-line. To subscribe to the Science NeXT User Group (SNUG), e-mail to snug-requests@whitewater.kim. wisc.edu. A group called NeXT Icons has the inquiry address next-icon-request@bmt.gun.com. With the introduction of lots of new music hardware and software, there has been a great resurgence of interest in the long-standing on-line group for musicians. For information write nextmusic-request@wri. com. There is now a special mail group to get announcements about the NeXT in the United Kingdom. The address to request this service is uk-next-announce-request@ asmec.co.uk

Help for editors. A newsletter wire service, called nextwire, collects articles, reviews, artwork, and anything NeXT-related into an on- line repository for all the NeXT user groups around the world to draw upon when creating newsletters for their members. Already beginning to fill up, nextwire's archives should spread some of the enthusiasm and knowledge on the Net to those not directly connected. Contact Shawn Broderick at next-wire@mit.edu for more details.

Bandwagon. A sampling of new groups includes Singapore, led by Paul Wang; Huntsville, Alabama, led by Daniel Green; and the Atlanta Commercial User Group, headed by Ram Madabushi. There are now 333 user groups in 46 states, 9 Canadian provinces, and 34 countries, totalling approximately 15,000 members worldwide.

by Charles L. Perkins & Dan Lavin