II Something Issue # 9

II Something Magazine

Issue # 9
a weekly journal devoted to the Apple II family of computers
Sunday, December 24, 1995 – issue 9 – II.Smthg.951224


  • About…
  • Editor’s Greeting
  • Letters To II Something – none this week
  • Does The Editor Have A Life? – Is This Your First Day?
  • The Art of Invisibility – Hiding Your Files (redux)
  • Webfind of the Week – Blue Fire
  • The Wire Service – GEnie website
  • The Wire Service – Delphi website
  • The Wire Service – more about the Delphi workspace
  • Do It In Hardware – Slotbuster
  • Ouch! – artistic differences
  • Wish List – Finder NDA



As you know, Apple Computer, Inc. owns all of the Apple II computer copyrights and trademarks, including their names.

II Something is offered as freeware – copyright by Clark Hugh Stiles. Intact distribution of the entire file is acceptable using online services, including BBSes, or via user group DOMs provided there are no commercial sales. Individual articles may be reprinted in user group publications only, provided the following paragraph (except for the opening and closing quotes) is included at the beginning or end of the reprint:

“This article originally appeared in II Something, a weekly journal devoted to the Apple II family of computers, copyright by Clark Hugh Stiles. It has been reprinted by permission. All trademarked names and phrases mentioned belong to their respective owners. Send email to CHStiles@Delphi.Com or C.Stiles3@Genie.Com via the Internet, or newsletters, disks, products for review, gifts, or bribes to Clark Hugh Stiles, Box 46, Comstock Park, MI 49321-0046.”

Editor’s Greeting

Welcome to II Something. It’s the day before Christmas and all through the house the one CPU stirring has a one button mouse. For auld lang syne, I’ll be using FreeWriter for some of this week’s production. Yes, my intent is to deliver the New Year’s Eve issue on time!

Welcome to number nine, number nine, number nine, number nine. This week you’ll learn almost everything I know about file invisibility, and read a blast from the past hardware review, and be delighted with my descriptions of three websites, among other things. Enjoy this issue, and keep the email coming.

Does The Editor Have A Life? – Is This Your First Day?

I’ve been tallying loot although almost none has been opened. One thing I’ve peeked at is a substantial gift certificate for Elderly Instruments in Lansing, Michigan – this from Dave ‘n’ Becky, who also shipped a wrapped gift that I’m pretty sure is a fun wall calendar. The boss got us some tasty, tooth-rotting candy and loaves of yummy bread. Luckily I’ve got an abdominizer on the stairs.

A friend at work loaded me down with some nice loot Thursday night, including some sweats (in green) that must have cost way too much. I’ve been helping her this year with odd repairs and repair advice, and we’re walking buddies (in warmer weather, mostly), but I think she’s just extravagant. I gave her the book “Snaps”, which is a collection of insults from various sources, and on the cover it says it’s for playing the dozens – “your mother…” type of humor from the 1950s or maybe even the 1940s. I got some fun things for her kids.

They have this deranged Jack Russell terrier that loves me to repletion and won’t leave me alone while I’m visiting. On Thursday after the gift exchange he actually calmed down enough to curl up next to me, bury his little face in my hand, and go to sleep. He’s so cute. Of course, I don’t care for dogs very much, and would still shoot him out of a cannon if I had to put up with the little jerk fulltime. Okay, I’d just enroll him in obedience training. Don’t write in.

Dog lovers may be able to tell why this Jack Russell has a facial coloration more like a doberman. My guess is that he’s not just a Jack Russell. He looks something like a cross between a doberman and a dachshund. I wonder how that would be accomplished?

I’ve still got to check through the gift pile to see what I’ve got to get and for whom. I hope you’ve done that, since you’re probably reading this on the day or two after Christmas.

The frame shop finished the Chagall by Wednesday, I picked it up Thursday night, and on Friday I sneaked it into Mike ‘n’ Jodi’s house during our annual gift exchange (and good excuse to scam a vegetarian meal, as opposed to a bad excuse). Chagall died at least ten years ago and Mike noticed that this print lists just the birth year and a hyphen, indicating that the print has been in the can for a long time.

I think the editor of II Something has more of a life than Chagall.

Next week I expect the large version of the Archimboldo print to arrive. It was $17 and I got the smaller $5 one to check the quality. It was excellent. It has a bunch of French stuff on the reverse, including the name of the Louvre, and the proprietor of the poster shop liked it so well he’s planning to stock the large size. Like most people, he’d never heard of the artist.

Archimboldo lived during the Renaissance and his work was a forgotten precursor of the Impressionists, and maybe also of the dogs playing poker. Although quite stunning, his work has an aspect of novelty to it that sometimes causes it to be dismissed and trivialized. He left no proteges, probably because he had no time to teach students or run an art school (the Holy Roman Emperor kept him pretty busy).

Do both of us a favor and order a copy of the small one (Guiseppe Archimboldo, “Spring”). Unless you’re some sort of freak, you should like it. If there is enough interest, perhaps more of his work will become available. I plan to check with my favorite poster shop in Rochester, New York next time I go (it’s on Monroe). See if you can find the Taschen budget collection of Archimboldo’s work on a remainder table or in a used book store.

On Tuesday the installers (Scott and Jason) completed the furnace installation. The plumber (Jim) couldn’t do the water heater that day as scheduled, and so I had no hot water for a day. Rats. The cold air return for the new (high efficiency Luxaire) furnace necessitated removal of the stack for the old water heater, and Jim got delayed trying to install gas logs (yes, gas logs. I was just as amazed) in the house of some other customer. I have a feeling that Jim is a slow worker though. It took him all day to put in the water heater.

It is very weird to have heat on demand in the house again. I need to clean up the steps to the basement and the basement floor. What a dusty mess. But Merry Christmas to me.

The Art of Invisibility – Hiding Your Files (redux)

A few years ago I wrote an article for the GRApple News regarding the concealment of files. I’ve rewritten it for II Something to help you with your secrets, or to keep your kids from destroying things. Using these techniques to hide illicit email from your sordid extramarital affair is possible but unethical. If that’s your intention, quit reading this now.

To hide files for whatever reason you should understand how ProDOS (or the ProDOS FST under GS/OS) stores files and file entries.

For each file, including subdirectories (folders), there exists an entry in a directory. This entry contains the file name, length of the file name, location of the data or index block(s), length of the file in bytes, the dates and times of creation and last modification, the file type, the auxiliary file type, the storage type, the access (lock/unlock) byte, and a few odds and ends. Each entry is 39 bytes long.

[ Arcane sidebar: each disk block is 512 bytes in length. The first four bytes of any block in a directory consist of two, k two byte pointers to previous blocks, if any, and next blocks, if any. The last byte of any block in a directory is unused. This leaves 507 bytes, which means there are thirteen 39 byte file entries per block. The first entry of a root directory – almost always four blocks – or a subdirectory of any length is an entry describing the directory itself. Subdirectories also have an entry in the root or sub- directory. Four block root directories, therefore, have room for 51 entries. The first blocks of subdirectories have room for twelve files, while each additional block has room for thirteen. End of arcane sidebar. ]

The quickest way to hide a file under GS/OS is to use a file utility NDA or FExt (I usually use NoDOS from Ego Systems) to set the invisibility bit of the access byte. When the bit is one, the file is “invisible” to the Finder. This is the method used by the Finder itself to hide the Finder.Data, Finder.Root, and Finder.Def files from the user, and some system extensions save invisible configuration files.

This method can be defeated by going to the Finder’s Special menu and selecting Preferences, and in that dialog clicking the ‘Hide Invisible Files’ to make the ‘x’ disappear. Click ‘Done’ and all invisible files will now show up in windows within the Finder. Also, many file utilities at least offer the option of showing the invisible files, or do so automatically. GSHK offers the option and I always run that way so I don’t waste a bunch of space archiving a bunch of useless Finder files (too bad more people don’t do this).

This method will keep things somewhat private, but anyone who knows anything about the Finder will be able to discover the files by accident. The best way to hide a group of files using this method is to make a new folder, stick the files in there, and make the folder invisible. ProDOS 8 doesn’t use the invisibility bit, and will always show the folder. AppleWorks users (for example) will be able to go right in there, never knowing that it is not supposed to be seen.

The second method is to alter the filetype. NoDOS will do this, as will the Info command included in the archive of an earlier issue of II Something. Many utilities allow you to alter the filetype, which is just an 8-bit number (0-255). If you change your file names to something innocuous (from “Lovers.Letters” to “My.Program.111”) and then make the filetype the same as a BASIC program file, few people will take the time to figure out what is going on.

This method can be made more devious if, as above, you put your confidential depravities into a new folder and change the filetype of the folder to REL (254) or something else no one will bother with. Any time you need to access it, simply change the filetype back to subdirectory (folder) and everything is back. If someone were to try to load the REL file for some reason, the system would send an error – the storage type of a subdirectory is different than that of any other file.

This method can be made even more sneaky. Put your files into the new folder, change the name of the folder, then change the filetype (to a CFG or configuration file), AND make it invisible. What kind of snoop is going to find it then, unless really looking for it? Not many.

The drawback to the second method is that you may have a neat nut with whom you share your computer. I’d just about guarantee that any defragmentation program will mess up any ProDOS volume with one of these flaky hidden, renamed, retyped folders. The first method shouldn’t have this problem.

The third method is a bit complicated. Since block 1 of most ProDOS volumes is never used (it used to have additional boot code for compatibility with the Apple III, but the formatters used by Apple and third parties no longer install it), you can go into block 6 with a disk zap, change the first byte to $40 (if it’s $00) or $41 (if it’s $01) after first checking to make sure block 1 is really unused (it will be all zeros). Then go back to Finder or Basic.System and create a new subdirectory. This new folder should reside in block 1. Check its location with a disk zap – look at block 1 again, and you should find the subdirectory name. You’ve also just gained a whole 512 byte block of previously unused storage space. Whoa.

Move your private files into the folder you’ve made in block 1. Now using a disk zap, Cat Doctor (read its docs), or some sort of custom program of your own design, zero out the reference to the directory as well as change the file count number. It may behoove you to run a disk defragmentation program FIRST. I said BEFORE you zero out the reference.

As in the second method, there is the risk that someone could wipe out your files with a disk defragmentation program. That’s a risk you’ll have to assume. Also, any time you wish to access the files, you’ll have to use the disk zap or custom program to retype the directory entry and restore the file count. This makes the third method pretty paranoid. Even those mysterious, seemingly all-knowing creeps that chase Mulder and Sculley on the X Files would have to learn a lot before they tried to access your files.

The reason for putting the directory in block one is that you’ve got room for twelve filenames and it is unlikely that the file entries would be wiped out by a defrag program. If you’ve got a secret you can express in 512 bytes or less, hide it in block one without any file reference at all and without altering the first byte of block six.

The fourth method, like the first and second, uses the approach of Poe’s “The Purloined Letter” – hide the file in plain sight. Using the encryption/decryption capabilities of the DES program (bad choice – it’s DOS 3.3 based and works on disks only), Glen Bredon’s CRYPTOR, or Bill Tudor’s FExt utility, scramble the contents of your file using a keyword known but to you. To save space and make descrambling more difficult, archive the whole group of files through a version of ShrinkIt, then encrypt the archive. I’d copy the encrypted archive (perhaps into an invisible folder, definitely to a different disk) prior to deleting the original files if I were you. I’d also use a keyword that is very easy to remember.

The fifth method has been used for years. Move your sensitive files to a floppy, verify the disk and the files, then trash your originals on the hard drive. Hide the floppy. That’s the whole method. This one is easiest, but where’s the challenge? Where’s the elegance?

Since the Apple II is not nearly as common as the big sellers, and since the ShrinkIt family of programs have almost no support on other platforms (the Mac version of Balloon, whatever it’s called, being the sole exception), just archiving your secret files may be enough to keep them safe from the enemy. This won’t help you with people who use your computer on a regular basis, though.

Good luck. Persistence as well as good luck will be needed to keep your files out of the wrong hands. It’s too bad that ProDOS doesn’t change the modification date for subdirectories when they are merely accessed – intruder detection would be much easier.

Webfind of the Week – Blue Fire


While cruising the GEnie website from Delphi’s Lynx (see below), I came across Blue Fire in GEnie’s Hotspots listing. It was said to contain “X-files type of material, gathered on the web for you… with a fairly level-headed approach…information, personal accounts, and news…Documenting…cross referencing with other web sites, news letters and media information” and when accessed, the welcome mat said that Blue Fire was brought to us by “Tom Mahood, and my far too copious spare time. The primary purpose of this site, other than to direct my energies in slightly less deviant directions, is to act as a satellite to Glenn Campbell’s Area 51 web page. Beyond that I hope to include an array of information ranging from quality, attributed stuff, all the way to wild-ass rumors, clearly identified as such. You will have to be prepared to think for yourselves, and for some of you this will be a new experience. But hey, that’s what life’s about!”

Glenn Campbell used to live in Massachusetts and work in a computer related field, but took some sort of early retirement and moved to Nevada. He has been seen on NBC’s Unsolved Mysteries and on CNN’s Larry King Live (the Area 51 episode). I checked out his website, but you’ll find out about that next week. Blue Fire has some very interesting and very clearly described links, and not so many that it is overwhelming or hard to follow. Here are most of the really weird ones:

“Nellis Complex Facilities: Info on some of the more obscure areas in and around Dreamland/Area 51.

“Area 51 WWW site: A link to Glenn Campbell’s (Psychospy) web site with the entirepoop on Area 51.

“Paul McGinnis’s Govt Secrecy web site: Well, really Anti-Govt secrecy…Things they would prefer you didn’t know.

“Federation of American Scientists: Everything you wanted to know about government secrecy, but they wouldn’t tell you.

“The Bob Lazar Corner: Various odds and ends about the great Bob. More than you really want to know….

“High Energy Weapons Archive: Everything you wanted to know about nukes, for the do-it-yourselfer.

“DOE Opennet database: Access into all kinds of unclassified files, brought to you by those fine folks at the Department of Energy. Go ahead, do a search for Papoose!”

This week marks the resumption of the Webfind of the Week.

The Wire Service – GEnie website

Over on Delphi’s Internet menu there is an option 12, which when selected offers a menu containing a mess of other options. Option 3 on that menu is Enter Any URL, and it comes in quite handy. It would be handier if I could save it to my Personal Favorites list and have it work! I’m guessing that GEnie’s implementation of Lynx has a similar option, but I’ve not explored it very much. So I’ve used the Delphi Lynx to access the Genie website, as well as the Delphi website (see below). I’ve also added both sites to my Personal Favorites list, as you may have noticed.

This week I looked into GEnie’s Hotspots, and had a great deal of fun. It claims it has more than 200 links, and in fact it was more than 300. I’m not too sure it wasn’t more than 400, I just dumped that part of the buffer. The nice thing about GEnie’s Hotspots is that if you select one of the links, GEnie gives you a screen describing the site in more detail, then gives you the option of actually entering that site. I really like that. There is an option in Hotspots to list the links in a more detailed mode. I haven’t tried that yet, but I’d guess that the more detailed mode gives you those screens in a continuous format.

One small quibble I had was that some of the links appeared to be duplicated. Since all of them are in one long list, there isn’t much purpose to the duplication. A hierarchic structure helps to organize links, and allows the webmaster the option of duplicate links in a more coherent format. This observation and opinion is not something directed solely to GEnie, but to many websites. Dr.Tom has a lot of really interesting links in his website, but he isn’t that well organized, and his list of links is far too long.

My attitude is that the Hotspot links should not just place the user somewhere in a very long list, but rather load in one of a number of smaller lists, and offer the option of loading the full list at once, thus better accommodating command line interface users as well as graphical interface users.

Yahoo!, a website that does nothing much but link to other websites, has a very large number of links (thousands), but manages them using a hierarchical structure. Any commercial service that offers free access to a website and links to many other sites should consider such an implemention. Competition among free services is won or lost based on the ease of use and amount and type of information available. It is important from a commercial standpoint to be a contender, because a commercial service offers an open website in order to publicize its commercial services. Based on its acquisitions, America Online seems to understand this.

I’ll go into more detail about the GEnie site in future issues.

The Wire Service – Delphi website


Delphi’s website has more commercial aspects to it, and in my brief experience with it and with GEnie’s using a graphical web interface, Delphi’s looks better. In terms of the amount of interesting information available, I’d say that GEnie’s links to other services give GEnie an edge. On the other hand, Delphi has the X-files site, and all the Fox Network news and sports that is online. If Delphi’s Custom Forums were online at the website, you’d rarely see me on GEnie again, but then you’d never see Delphi again, either – website users would increase the load on Delphi’s hardware but not increase revenues. My guess is that Delphi would try charging horrendous bills to the sysops of the Custom Forums, rather than promoting this capability to website users.

In case you’re wondering, my opinion is that Delphi should make its Custom Forums (which any Delphi user can start and maintain for a small fee) available to website users, and intice more people into joining Delphi by marketing Custom Forums (at a variety of levels of service, beginning with homepages). I’m not going to sit around wasting electrons waiting for this to happen.

I’ll go into more detail about the Delphi site in future issues.

I like both GEnie and Delphi, but I’d like to have a single site (not sight) that combines my favorite features of both. Look for this in next week’s Wish List.

The Wire Service – more about the Delphi workspace

Last week I hoped to report my success in taking care of all my email transfers within the boundaries of my Workspace. Didn’t work. I’m still stuck with either composing online, or text uploads. My next attempt will be to find out if uploads of text work correctly within the Mail subsystem. I want to XUpload my offline edits and send them as email.

I have discovered that the system keeps old mail around. I deleted messages after reading them and discovered after exit and reentry to the Mail that a raft of old mail, corresponding to the files showing up during a Catalog of the Workspace, returned for my edification and delight. I deleted each of them and when I left Mail and returned to Workspace, a Catalog revealed that only two files remained – Favorites.Sav;1 and Mail.Mai;1 (both of these are more or less necessary).

Delphi’s help crew assures me that once I’ve read my mail and exited the Mail subsystem, those messages are gone. They are wrong. Delete at the end of each of your Delphi messages. I’ve been told by non-Delphi sources that users are charged for excess data storage. Nice complementary policies. The FAVORITES.SAV file is used to store Personal Favorites information while in the Internet subsystem. It is one of the nicest features. Obviously, that can get too large.

FreeWriter has a very flexible (command line oriented) Find feature. I use it to clean up the mess left by Lynx in text buffers while I’m viewing web pages. I can do a find (invoked by Control-F), type an exclamation point, then hold down the control key, type [, then let up on the control key, type [ again, then 0, then m, then !!, then A, then hit the Return key. This searches for the sequence Control-[[0m and gets rid of each occurrence. I repeat this for the sequence Control-[[1m.

FreeWriter also has a flexible Load feature (within the boundary of available memory, about 32K). In the case of the Favorites.Sav file, I invoked Load with a Control-L, typed the filename, typed !.URL!^J!a after the filename, and it loaded each block of text (in most cases, single lines) beginning with .URL and ending with control-J (that ^J was entered by holding down the control key and typing J). I did the same thing with !.GOPHER!^J!a – the trailing “a” just means “all occurrences). Then I just removed the resulting extra carriage returns, and had the all the www entries in one block, and the gophers (mostly ftp) sites) in another. My preference is to have the gophers at the beginning.

The first entry does not have a control-J in front of it, so delete that. The end of the file should be a control-J so leave that one. Right after it, type Control-V, Control-Z, and Control-V. FreeWriter will put a control-Z character right at the end of the file, just like it is supposed to have. Control-V is a function that allows the continuous typing of control characters.

After a save (invoked with Control-S, then use the right arrow to move to the end of the filename, and hit return, then type Y and hit return again) I went to Herb’s Text Editor and moved around the entries with swoops of the mouse and a-key commands, grouping the entries by subject, and wiping out duplicates or crap.

After the editing was complete, I got online, went to the Workspace subsystem, and XUploaded the edited file. I then had to Delete the old (that’s what those numbers are after the semicolon in the filename – check the filedate that is listed to see which one gets deleted, and you’ll catch on), and that is how the Personal Favorites menu in the Delphi Lynx implementation gets edited to my liking. It will work that way for you. The XUpload option is a way of working around the file transfer protocol you’ve specified in the Settings subsystem.

If you have any questions about what you’ve just read, send email to me.

I’ll be continuing this exploration in next week’s issue, or the week thereafter. Watch this space.

Do It In Hardware – Slotbuster

The Slotbuster by RC Systems is a multifunction card that does not use “ghost” slots and is therefore compatible with the GS. I suppose it is no longer made, but it may be available used from time to time. I used to use the Slotbuster on the IIe for the ImageWriter II. I believe I also used it to interface with my first external modem, a 1200 baud Kyocera that came from DAK or somewhere, and later with the 2400 baud Epic mini. Once I had the GS the IIe spent all its time on my dresser until I sold it. During that year I used it a few times for disk copying and the like and sold the CPU, Monitor II, UDC, and Central Point 3.5″ drive to two or three different parties. I kept the Slotbuster.

Before I go on, I’d like to say that I’ve never had occasion to try the SB in the GS, but I have read that it is compatible, and have never read anything else to the contrary. I plan to find out if I should get an HP inkjet printer requiring a parallel port. The QC catalog describes which models work with the GS using Vitesse’ drivers.

The ports on a Slotbuster are serial (printer, typically), serial (modem), and parallel (printer). Also available (but not installed on mine) were speech synthesizer (addressed as another printer) and clock. There are sockets for memory chips to buffer the printing (I think I have the chips) and a jumper to the game port so that holding down both closed and open Apple keys would clear the buffer and halt a print job. The significance of the use of a single slot rather than “ghost” slots is that the serial and parallel printers can be selected based on the entry point used, so that AppleWorks can dump a job to an attached serial printer in slot 1, then another to an attached parallel printer also in slot 1. Also, the remaining unused slots can be filled with other expansion cards and will still function.

I’ll keep you apprised of the progress on printer acquisition. If I get an inkjet, the current plan is to retain the Imagewriter for various continuous feed functions.

Ouch! – artistic differences

Mike did not get a Magritte print, but a print by Marc Chagall. I do know the difference between their work, but got their names confused. I do that a lot. Sorry for the mixup.

Wish List – Finder NDA

I’d love to have the file management style of the Finder in an NDA. Basically, it would consist of an edit window containing icons for online volumes, use the small icons (either out of the icons folder or internal ones), and provide a trash can. The options of the File, Edit, and Disk menus would be available, perhaps with the addition of a Search for files menu item. Preferences would be found under the Edit menu, unless Special were needed for “Empty Trash” (it would be better to just dump the files immediately, since this is an NDA).

Double clicks on folders would open other edit windows just as in Finder. Double clicks on data files or applications would launch the appropriate application, and one of the “Preferences” could be to select applications for specific data filetypes or perhaps even specific filenames. Renaming procedures would be identical with the Finder’s.

File information in the Mac Finder has always been under File, which makes more sense. Perhaps that’s where it belongs under this hypothetical Finder NDA. Wherever it is implemented, the file information window should offer more options (such as filetype/aux/access byte adjustments, along with lock and active) and make the display more consise, putting the basic information, the scrollable comment text, and the location on a single “card”.

I won’t hold my breath, but I’d pay good money for a copy of this NDA.


II Infinitum

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About the Author

Clark Hugh Stiles

Welcome to II Something. It’s October 1995 and I’m still using an Apple IIgs. What am I missing? The newest machines use CRT screens (preferred, even with laptops except when actually used on the lap), keyboards, mice, and sound to implement an interface with the user. Hard drives are used for primary storage and boot volumes, while CD-ROMs are used to hold larger data files, and floppy and tape drives are used for current data and backup for the hard drives. Modems are used for communication with mainframes. These features have not changed in years; most of them have not changed in decade.