I am an employee of the Byte Shop of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and I must say that you have one of the best Apple magazines going for you. The articles are very well done and you usually have very accurate information. We sell Byte, Creative Computing, Kilobaud Microcomputing, Nibble, Call Apple, Interface Age, the local Apple users' group newsletter, and InfoWorld. Of all these, I feel that your magazine is the most informative source to keep up with new items. Great! Keep it up. And another thing. You say that subscriptions are free to Apple owners. I have owned my Apple for two years and I have yet to see it mailed to my house. I am forced to wait until my boss is finished reading the store copy. And while I'm at it, I have some messages to convey to the software houses.
Adam Ginsberg, Byte Shop, Ft. Lauderdale, FL - V2N2
We can't mail you a magazine if we don't know about you. We aren't affiliated with Apple, so even if you send Apple notice, we remain in the dark. If you want Softalk, you must send us your name, address, and, because we're free exclusively to Apple owners, your Apple serial number. Regarding note to On-Line: You didn't try "Take all." In that very cave, that's what you needed. "Drop all" works to put everything down, too. About Broderbund: What a loss to have missed out on Alien Rain because of the potential of an Alien Typhoon to come. We believe Alien Rain is by far the superior game. Typhoon is quite a different game to play, best for addicts. Softalk gives seven Apple disk drives a heavy workout eighteen hours a day or more. All games get intensive multihour sessions. Other than occasional timing adjustments, only two drives have gone down—both because some sleepy person misconnected them.
Softalk Response to Ginsbert - V2N2
In response to Lee Bondle's letter in the August issue, I would like to say, yes, computers can be treated from a user's end only point of view. But to continue the analogy that was used, if your user's program crashes or you need to modify it you would have to take it to "the shop." Stop and think how much you spend in simple repair and maintenance of your car, just because you cannot do the work yourself because of lack of knowledge. Knowledge is the key to power and knowing how to program your computer can be doubly powerful. What I am trying to say is that, while the computer can be used like a terminal, from a user's point, it is far more to everyone's advantage to know the whys and hows of your computer. And also less expensive in the software area. Thanks for listening and keep printing the best Apple II magazine.
Bill Rednour, Brooklyn, NY - V2N2
I was somewhat hesitant to comment on one of the programs reviewed in Marketalk Reviews in your November 1981 issue. I did feel obligated, however, to warn your other readers that the Diet Analysis program written by Javed Aslam and marketed by Apple as part of their SDS program has design deficiencies and defects which render it of limited value to the serious user. I purchased Diet Analysis for my wife on the basis of the description published in Apple's SDS catalog. It sounded like a great way for her to keep up with her intake of carbohydrates and all the other things she loves so well.
The first problem encountered was that the program would crash when an attempt was made to activate one of the functions from the menu. Since the disk was locked to prevent the user from copying the program and the various tricks had been used to reset the reset vector and prevent listing the program, the only recourse was to turn off the computer. In addition to this fatal flaw, it turned out that, contrary to indications in the SDS catalog, it was not possible to add foods to the data base to tailor it to the user's likes. Finally there was no provision for printing any of the results. Since the program had to be booted to run it, it was not possible to install a screen print routine and, for reasons stated above, it was not possible to add printing options to the code. Fortunately, the local store took the program back. Once again, I regret having to throw cold water on Dr. Aslam's efforts, particularly since the program otherwise has a lot of merit. I am disappointed, however, that Apple did not try a little harder to ensure that the program would run as the author intended, and that their catalog was misleading. Perhaps I would have kept the program had I been permitted to modify the code to do what I wanted.
Mike Kramer, Klngwood, TX - V2N5
Let's end the war right now the Apple users are in a state of confusion. Looking at all the new software that is on the market, with the boom in home computers, and seeing the prices on programs makes us wonder what's going on. We have to make a decision between saving our hard earned cash and paying the ridiculous high prices for these programs or being illegal and getting black market programs at a more affordable price; neither is a good choice. I have noticed in recent ads in other computer magazines that certain companies have more or less declared war on those that are making these copies. Granted software companies should make a profit on the work and effort of what they have done. But how much of a profit and for how long? That's what it gets down to. Most companies need at the most 6 percent profit to put back into the company. The prices we see have to be more than that, figuring they can't be paying over $2 for the diskette, and that leaves the remainder for the printed matter, which can't be more than $5 (basing this on the price of similar material on the market), which comes to a total of $7. Most software listed in Softalk sells from $26.95 on up. If these manufacturers would bring the price down, these so-called pirates couldn't afford to buy the copy programs, take the time to copy, and still figure that they are coming out ahead. I am not for copying copyrighted programs because these companies have earned the rights to them and it is against the law. However if these same companies would wake up to the fact that they could all but eliminate these pirates by cutting their prices (in some cases by more than half), it would make a simple compromise.
Steven Straughn, Omaha, NE - V2N5
When we at Superior Software first introduced The Quest for the Holy Grail, we decided not to copy-protect our disks. We recognize and understand the arguments for protection, but we oppose un-copiable and, by their nature, un-listable and unmodifiable programs. One of the greatest pleasures of owning an Apple comes from learning, and one of the best ways to learn is to review and try to understand what others have done previously. Then you can customize programs to suit your own specific needs or write your own with the knowledge gained. A great many commercial programs would be more valuable to the user if modifications were possible, and locking the program in these instances may even reduce future sales. The risks involved are outweighed by the value to the user and the basic fairness of providing quality software that can be listed, understood, modified, and legitimately backed up. We are not condoning piracy. Duplicating copyrighted work and distributing it (even for free) without permission is, and should be, illegal. Pirates are thieves who should be punished. However, we believe the vast majority of users are honest and will pay a fair price for goocf software. Apple's Mike Markkula stated recently that he would like to see the elimination of locked software altogether. Also, Mark Pelczarski of Penguin Software announced the decision to go unprotected with certain software. We applaud these efforts. It takes courage and trust in you, the user.
Thome D. Harris III, president, Superior Software, Kenner, LA CALL US! 1-800-845-5147 - V2N12
Much of what has appeared in Open Discussion concerning copy protection has missed the point. Cost versus retail price of a program is irrelevant when dealing with the ethical and legal issues of copying a purchased program. If a program does $500 worth of work and can justify a $500 price tag, then fine—it should sell for that. People don't go into business just to cover their costs, and cost-based pricing of a product is a quick way to end up in bankruptcy court. I have written several programs and my initial reaction was to copy protect them. On reflection, however, it becomes apparent that copy protection is a knee-jerk reaction that is self-defeating to the software publishing industry. If you treat people like you expect them to be thieves, then they will react accordingly, while if you treat your customers with respect, they in turn will respect you and your product. Sure, some people will rip you off and copy something, but more people will buy your product because it will be far more useful to them if they can modify it to fit their needs. Look at the book publishing industry. Have Xerox machines or public libraries cost them money? Have Xerox machines located in public libraries cost them money? Hell, no—the publishing industry has grown like a weed since the introduction and wide dissemination of the copy machines, and anyone who would outlaw libraries because the readers of the books there can copy them has to be daft.
Copy protection has some major disadvantages for the customer. Most software is sold on thirteen-sector disks so that they will boot on all systems; therefore 25 percent of the disk storage capacity is wasted. Any program that writes to its own disk (like word processors) has less value in this format than it would if it could be copied to sixteen-sector format. I am wary of buying a locked up program because I will be frustrated when I can see how to make it better fit my needs. Most locked-up programs cannot be used together, and most cannot be used with all of the peripheral devices available to the user. I have used Super-Text II for some time, and have been very pleased with it. Because Super-Text is locked up, it cannot be used with a modem to prepare and edit files for remote transmission. What am I supposed to do, throw away my Super-Text and search for another word processor, investing more money and time to learn to use it?
As for the disadvantages to the publisher, presuming his customers to be thieves casts a very serious, harmful attitude upon his organization. Locked-up programs are limited in their utility and lock the publisher out of many sales. Many people have limited budgets; kids are a prime example. Many would purchase more programs if they could get together and each buy one program, copy them for each other and trade, making their money go twice as far. Why try to prevent it? Two more programs have been sold. Sure the publishers feel ripped off, but they can cry all the way to the bank. What is worse : no sale at all or two sales that turn into four copies? Being able to copy programs encourages people to buy them because they know that they will get more value for their money.
The whole issue of copy protection also breeds questionable ethics among the publishers. Sensible Software sells to the public a nibble copier on the premise that it will allow its purchasers to back up copy protected disks and sells copy protection schemes to publishers that it claims cannot be copied with its own nibble copier. And if the publishers think that copy protection schemes are going to prevent large-scale duplication, they are awfully naive. They won't inhibit the large-scale pirate in the least, but only prevent the little guy, the average customer, from making a limited number of copies—presuming him to be a thief. Copy protection encourages thieving because it is a challenge to outsmart the publisher who presumes you to be a thief and then to laugh at him when you are done. Most of the illicit copies are going to people who would not have bought the program in the first place, and therefore do not represent a lost sale to the publisher.
Come on, publishers, unlock your programs. Quit looking backward and worrying about all those illegal copies and, instead, look forward and concentrate more on how to increase your sales by making programs more useful to the buying public.
Gary Griffis, Concord, MA - V2N12
I had expected you to start charging for your excellent magazine sooner. I'm happy to send a check because you give value for your efforts. I'm sorry that your staff is underpaid ; as a member of the Armed Services I can appreciate the thankless position. I'd like to thank Mark Pelczarski of Penguin Software for his making modifiable programs available. I enjoyed his tenure with Softside and his programs with Co-Op. Though I usually set about to break uncopiable programs, it is with the intent to personalize them. No, I won't rip-off the efforts of authors considerate enough of my integrity and abilities to leave their wares unprotected. I do reserve the right to modify and improve the product for my personal use. And, if a dealer will give me a discount, I'll exploit that avenue, too. If ever I should improve a product sufficiently that I feel others would benefit, then I'll inform the author of my changes. Perhaps we could work something out? I'd like to condemn the Goldcoast Computer Club which is based in Florida now. It used to be in Kentucky. They have dealt unfairly with me and have failed to answer my letters or even acknowledge that I've sent them. I even sent them certified mail with no response. I would recommend that all computer owners avoid them and thus avoid my frustrating experiences. They owe me a good sum of money and when I return to the states I'll seek legal redress. Your magazine merits all the kudos lauded upon it. I'd like to see a column dealing with hi-res graphics routines if possible. Perhaps a discussion of DOS and its "mysteries" would be of interest to your readers, too. I really enjoy Assembly Lines, Ventures with VisiCalc, The Pascal Path, SoftCard Symposium and your Open Discussion. Of course the News, Reviews and Ratings are tops, too. I wish continued success to you and "our" magazine. Thank you!
David Lee Powell, Somewhere in Germany - V2N10
The December 1981 issue contains an advertisement on page 10 from Cavalier Computer. For those who haven't seen the ad or possibly just don't remember it, the ad states that Cavalier Computer is offering to bring the readers a free gift for Christmas. In essence, if the reader sends a blank disk to Cavalier, they will return it bearing a copy of Ring Raiders, a hi-res arcade-style game.
Well, the ad never stated any deadline date so I gave it a shot and telephoned Cavalier but, as you may have already guessed, the offer was no longer available. Though I wasn't able to take advantage of this free goodie, I still wanted to take this opportunity to tip my hat and offer a special "thank you" to Cavalier Computer for making such an offer available to us Apple users. In this day and age of high inflation and high competition, I think it is special indeed when a publishing company will offer any such software program for free. Whether the end purpose was for the sake of publicity and marketing studies, it really doesn't matter. What does matter is that I for one have acquired a bit more respect for Cavalier Computer and will look to them in the future when purchasing software. (By the way, Star Thief is, in fact, one of my favorite arcade games!) With all the controversy regarding the illegal copying and trading of software among computer users, I think that all publishing companies should take a good hard look at their own marketing/software publishing policies. Quite possibly they will find that a more give-and-take attitude is necessary in these times rather than a get-rich-quick attitude, which is typical of American culture. 'Nuff said. . . .
Martin Halpern, Tustin, CA - V2N9
I am a software pirate. It was never my intention or desire to become one when I purchased my Apple II Plus one year ago. I was amazed at the problems and insecurity copy-protected programs cause. First, one year ago, DOS 3.3 had just been introduced. The copy-protectors were not up to speed yet and all the software I purchased was DOS 3.2 and had to be booted with the Basics disk. I paid $150 for the then-current VisiCalc, but quickly obtained a "broken" copy I could boot directly with DOS 3.3. Of course, the VisiCalc data disks still had to be in DOS 3.2 format. . . .Second, I could not back up my software! What computer user in his or her right mind doesn't keep a backup of all programs and data files? I purchased a nibble copier, copied everything I could and stored the backups where I work. Third, I began purchasing off the shelf, "guaranteed to work," copy protected software. Some had minor bugs or required minor changes to support my interface cards. The manufacturers said, "We are working on the right version for you," or "The manual clearly states we do not support that interface card." So I had to learn to crack the software I purchased.
I began meeting others in the same position and now find myself among the software copiers and crackers. The software protectors have created this class of people. I am sharing with my new-found friends to recover the cost of the nibble copier, the time spent fixing bug-prone software, and the frustration of constant Basics disk usage. I'm still not totally happy to be in this position. But let me ask all your readers this, "Why buy a DOS 3.2 version of any software that you cannot backup when I can give you a 'broken' version that boots easily and backs up easily?" I strongly applaud Penguin Software's policy to release copyable software. I am more than willing to sign license agreements with them not to release a copy of any of their software I purchase. At last, software I can purchase and easily tailor to my own needs!
The Reluctant Software Cracker, V2N9
I received my first copy of Wizardry two weeks ago. I feel that it is the best game/adventure on the market. The only adventures on the Apple that I had been able to enjoy before Wizardry were the On-Line Adventures. I also had never liked anything similar to Dungeons & Dragons. With its graphics. Wizardry brings fantasy game playing to its feet! In fact, I have been playing Wizardry so often lately that I think I would be surprised if my Apple is able to do anything else but Wizardry. Yet I have found that usually the better the program the more bugs there are, and Wizardry is no exception to that rule. Two weeks has been enough time for two different copies to bite the dust. Meanwhile I had acquired both the version dated last September and the version dated last December, the later one being hardly any better than the earlier. Such parts of the program that I had the most difficulty with were the Utility Options and the Training Grounds. I find it particularly discouraging to give a command that requires Wizardry to access the disk and then never hear from the program again as the disk goes whisping around indefinitely. As to the Utility Options, unless they are improved Sir-Tech might as well stake them off the program.But I'm no fool; as soon as I got my new copy, I sat down with my Locksmith Jf.O and documentation in order to back it up. I must commend Sir-Tech on their copy protection; it took me almost ten hours to copy it. Who would have ever thought that the program doesn't run unless the disk is write-protected. One final note to the authors of Wizardry; next time more action and less preparation so that the game does not end up becoming boring. I expect to be one of the first people to buy the next scenario when it comes out in March.
Adam Behrens, New York, NY - V2N8