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Covering the Mactivity/Web Conferenc



Many recent surveys show the Macintosh as the second most popular platform for Web development--right behind Unix. Why is the Macintosh so popular for Web development? The Mactivity/Web conference January 8 and 9 in San Francisco provided the answer.

by Van Wray

T he energy and talent in the Macintosh Web development community is strong and growing. Mactivity/Web brought together the leading Macintosh Internet developers and Macintosh Webmasters.
The two day event was packed with technical sessions, tutorials, and technology demos. The conference also had several special events, including:
  • A Web Forum panel with the several key industry figures from the Macintosh Web Community discussing issues and technologies of the Web
  • Web Site Critique, where attendees could have the Masters of Multimedia Gulch critique their site
  • A vendor fair displaying the latest Macintosh Web development tools.

  • The tutorial sessions were divided into four tracks: Beginning Webmasters, Intermediate Webmasters, Advanced Webmasters, and WebBusiness. Attendees could pick and choose sessions from each of the tracks as they saw fit. The Beginning Webmaster track included sessions on Web publishing, aspects of HTML, Graphics Tips, and Webmaster Tips. The Intermediate track had sessions on CGIs, advanced Web presentations with Forms, and Web Design. The Advanced track drew a lot of people with sessions addressing VRML, Java, relational database back-ends, and secure Web transactions. The last track, Web Business, looked into selling content, legal issues of the Web, the corporate Web, and digital payment methods, among other topics.
    Scheduled throughout the conference were technology demos from Apple Computer, Adobe Systems, Delphic Software, and StarNine, showing off leading edge Web development tools. Mike Marshburn, President and CEO of Delphic, showed off their Macintosh OneSite Web Server. OneSite Web Server will be released by the time you read this--a free two-user version of the OneSite Web Server is planned and should be available for downloading from their Web site, @url:http://www.delphic.com/. OneSite supports secure remote administration of all its features, and is Power PC and Open Transport native. Chuck Shotton, StarNine's Senior Vice President of Engineering demonstrated WebSTAR's new plug-in architecture. A server plug-in for supporting real-time user chat was demonstrated. This is unique, as Chuck Shotton explained, "you go to most Web sites that support some type of Web based chat, and you'll always see a button on the bottom that says reload this page. In this case you don't have to reload the page because we are sending (with WebSTAR) as soon as it arrives...you can do that because plug-ins all run as part of WebSTAR." The chat was a simple example of supporting true interactive Web use. StarNine plans to make a available, as part of their WebSTAR development program, the source code to the chat plug-in module.
    WebSTAR and Chuck Shotton deserve a great deal of credit for bringing the Macintosh ease of use to Web development, and the for the popularity of the Macintosh as a Web server. This was recognized at the Eleventh Annual MacUser Editor's Choice Awards, where WebSTAR was chosen as the Best Internet product of 1995, and then captured the prestigious Best Overall Software Product of the Year award.
    Mactivity/Web overlapped with MacWorld at the Moscone Center January 9th through 12th. Many new products for Internet development were announced during the week at both Mactivity/Web and MacWorld and the following are a few highlights of some of the products announced.
    Java is the rage and Natural Intelligence of Cambridge, MA began shipping Developer Release 1 of Roaster for the Macintosh. Roaster is the first environment for creating Java applets on the Macintosh platform. Roaster is a complete development environment that includes a hierarchical project window, source code editor, interpreter, Java compiler, debugger, and run-time engine. Its PowerPC native, and later releases will support 68k Macintoshes. The list price of $399 includes unlimited technical support and free updates through the second commercial release of Roaster. Aacademic versions are available for $99.
    I am glad Natural Intelligence is aggressive with their educational pricing. Everyone interested in high-end Internet Web development will be the benefactors of the young men and women computer science types getting their hands on Java development environments.
    Natural Intelligence also announced plans for a Java-based environment on the Macintosh for developing stand-alone applications. The product, called Roaster Professional, will be an integrated environment for developing full-fledged, cross-platform Java applications--moving beyond the ability of Roaster to create applets. The Roaster Professional will build upon Roaster by adding three key components: a Java class library specifically designed for creating stand-alone cross-platform applications, a visual screen builder for rapid prototyping and interface construction, and native compilers that compile Java into cross-platform byte codes.
    "The Macintosh development community is a critical contributor to the content and shape of the Web, and we're very pleased to see that Natural Intelligence is capitalizing on the benefits the Java language offers," said Eric Schmidt, chief technology officer at Sun Microsystems, Inc. "With a large number of users creating graphics and multimedia for the Internet on the Macintosh, the Mac OS has the potential to become the platform of choice for Java development," said Peter Christy, Senior Director of Apple's Developer Products Group. Roaster Professional for the Macintosh will ship in mid-1996 with a Windows version shipping by the end of 1996.
    Maxum Development released PageSentry, a Macintosh Internet software tool to provide reliable monitoring of any page, on any server, anywhere on the Internet. A Webmaster defines "Sentries" that monitor pages. PageSentry actually downloads Web pages from any Web server at specified intervals and verifies the content of the page. If a page is not being served perfectly PageSentry will notify the Webmaster via e-mail, alpha-numeric pager, and/or send an AppleEvent to any AppleEvent aware application. Custom AppleScripts could be written to capture the AppleEvent and process it any way you choose.
    Maxum also announced version 2.0 of their popular NetCloak software. NetCloak was the first commercial CGI for Macintosh based Web servers. NetCloak extends the capabilities of a Macintosh based Web server by adding 45 commands for use in Web pages. It executes these commands dynamically as Web pages are sent to the client. Pages can be customized by client domain, time, date, browser, referer, username, password, access count, at random, or by client-entered information. Version 2.0 of NetCloak includes several new features. A user can be prompted to enter data and then based on that data subsequent Web pages can be customized. Conditional password requests allow a Webmaster to require passwords from users--for example, on the address of the users computer. Maxum also makes NetForms and RushHour. NetForms allows forms entered by users of a WebSTAR server to be automatically converted to formatted HTML documents. RushHour is an optimized Web server for serving graphics--it uses a high-performance RAM cache to serve GIF and JPEG images. RushHour can work along side any Web site, on any platform, to handle graphics.
    Another new product that introduces new capabilities to Macintosh Web servers is HomeDoor. HomeDoor was released by Open Door Networks of Ashland, OR. HomeDoor is a Macintosh product designed to work with any Web server, including those not running on a Macintosh. HomeDoor provides Mac-based Web servers the ability to serv home pages for up to 256 separate domains. The product supports any number of pages within each "virtual domain". The product works by receiving the initial request from a Web browser and redirects the request to the desired home page. The Web browser then retrieves the home page directly from the Web server, but requires a valid contiguous range of Internet addresses.
    Since HomeDoors introduction in late 1995, HomeDoor has been enthusiastically welcomed by the Macintosh Internet community. "Macintosh Web servers provided excellent performance and have set the standard for ease-of-use," said Mike Gallagher, Product Line Manager for Apple's Cybertech Products Group. "With the Homedoor Default Home Page Server, Webmasters can now host multiple home pages from a single Macintosh-based web server." Open Door Networks was founded in January 1995 by Alan Oppenheimer, an 11-year Apple veteran and co-creator of the AppleTalk network system.
    There were many more exciting and interesting products that room does not permit to describe. If you are interested, think about attending Mactivity/Web in the future. Mactivity, Inc., the organizers of the Mactivity/Web conference are scheduled to do Mactivity/Web in July 14-15 in San Jose, CA. Mactivity '96, a Macintosh connectivity conference will be held July 16-18 following Mactivity/Web. Contact Mactivity at @url:http://www.mactivity.com/ , for more information.

    Van Wray is the all-the-time husband of Valerie and Dad to his two sons, Miles (4 1/2) and Evan (1 1/2). He is the Systems Development Manager for the Evangelical Christian Credit Union in Anaheim, CA. While anticipating the end of his Master's Degree in Computer Science from California State University Fullerton he saves spare change for an Apple Newton that supports Java. Reach him at vwray@cogent.net