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Digital Universe Mailing List

Hi there everyone.  This is a message to the Digital Universe mailing list.
For those newcomers to the list, welcome!  The purpose of the list is to
provide registered users of the software with information relating to "The
Digital Universe".  When you bought our product, customer support didn't
stop there.  We're hoping to be able to demonstrate to other software
companies what customer support should be like!

If we received your email address with your order, you were automatically
added to our mail list.  Traffic is expected to be generally quite low, but
if you would like to be removed, just send email to support@syz.com and let
us know.

Anyway, on to the news:

1.  THIS MAILING LIST
We've received a number of messages from people wanting to know the details
of how to send messages to this mailing list.  Unfortunately, our Internet
service provider is not yet set up to provide "public access" messaging -
which means that you can't send messages to a central site to have them
immediately broadcast amongst all members of the list.  But if you have
anything you would like to tell or ask your fellow "Digital Universe"
ousers, just send the message on to us at support@syz.com, instructing us
to post it to the list.  Within a day or two, we should be able to get your
message out.

2.  OUR WEB PAGE
Our Web page has undergone fairly significant changes in the last few
weeks.  If you haven't been there for awhile, we have a section devoted to
new discoveries relating to astronomy.  You'll be able to access
information there much faster than waiting for it to make its way into
patches to the hypertext (since we wait for a significant number of changes
to the hypertext before releasing a new version...  otherwise we'd be
swamped in an endless sea of versions)..

We're quite excited about another new addition.  The Internet puts a wealth
of astronomical information at your fingertips - if you only know where to
look.  Many people are interested in obtaining images of astronomical
objects, but have no idea where they might find them.  We're currently in
the process of putting together a huge database of URLs to astronomy images
around the net.  This index is searchable - which means you can ask it to
find something like "NGC 3214", or "Saturn" and it will return links to all
the pictures that it knows about.  Compiling this database will take a long
time (and we don't plan on ever really being done :-), but in the meantime
we're off to a good start with about 15000 images indexed so far.  Much of
this is due to our linking directly with the Digitized Sky Survey Web
pages...  giving you direct access to images of all NGC and IC objects.

We still have a long way to go, and plan on announcing the service publicly
to various astronomy newsgroups when we have it set up a bit better.  In
the meantime, feel free to test the service, and send us any comments that
you might have on it.  Links to additional URLs not yet indexed (believe
me, there are LOTS of those :-) are also greatly appreciated.  We hope to
make the service the definitive guide to finding astronomical images on the
Web.

You can reach it via links on our home page http://www.syz.com/ or directly
with the URL http://www.syz.com/images/

Just a word of warning - some of the images, though freely accessible on
the Web, may be copywritten by various individuals or organizations.  Just
because we at Syzygy provide links to these images does not mean that
you've bought the rights to these images when you bought our product.  We
don't own the copyright on these images any more than you do - so be sure
to check with the original sources if you want to use them in any
publications.

One last thing to check out - Galileo will be reaching Jupiter in just 4
days - December 7th!  Until its encounter, we feature images on our home
page obtained directly from JPL that show the current position and
orientation of the spacecraft.  At the moment, they're updated daily..
.but on arrival day, they'll be updated every 5 minutes.  It's interesting
to connect to the pages periodically to see how fast that Galileo is
approaching its target.

Obviously, when Galileo arrives and the probe data finally relayed back to
Earth, we'll have to do a lot of hypertext editing ..  :-)

3.  DIGITAL UNIVERSE V1.02
Two releases of Digital Universe are currently out - the initial V1.00 and
V1.01.  (you can get patches on our Web site to upgrade V1.00 to V1.01 if
you don't already own the latest version).  We've been working on V1.02 for
quite some time, adding a few more minor features and eliminating a few
more bugs (persistent little things :-) We just have one or two things left
to straighten out and we'll be able to release V1.02, along with the
patches.

But we're after your advice before going ahead with one of our patches.  It
only affects users using Workbench 3.0 or greater (or anyone capable of
opening a screen of more than 32 colors), so WB 2.0 owners can feel free to
skip this section.  As for the rest of you, bear with us a bit on a
technical discussion.

As you're probably quite well aware, "The Digital Universe" has an awful
lot of hypertext.  As such, it's split up into 9 files.  Unfortunately, MUI
has a bug when dealing with more than one hypertext file when using a
version of amigaguide.library > 34....  it can really only deal properly
with a single file.

Luckily, amigaguide.library V34 (the WB 2.0 version) and MUI get along just
fine.  So "The Digital Universe" pre-loads its own copy of V34
amigaguide.library, irregardless of the version you normally use on your
system.  That way, MUI is forced to using V34 and the hypertext normally
works okay.

However, there is one potential problem that got past us in bug testing. 
If you're using a screen with more than 32 colors and open up an amigaguide
window (either through pressing HELP, getting More Info on an object, etc.)
amigaguide.library will cause your computer to promptly crash.  This
appears to be due to the fact that V34 amigaguide.library assumes that you
can't have more than 32 colors on a screen at once....  reasonable, since
with WB2.0, for which it was written, you couldn't.

"The Digital Universe" only uses 16 colors on a screen at a time, so we
were tempted to restrict the depth of a screen to 4 (16 colors).  But some
users have wanted to modify the "showpic" script to use their own IFF ILBM
viewer to display images directly on the DU screen.  For this, they would
appreciate more colors so that the pictures turn out alright.

But since all the pictures (except a few HAM images here and there) are 16
colors anyway, restricting the user to a 32 color palette might serve the
bill perfectly...  and luckily amigaguide.library seems happy with 32
colors.

We're after your input on this decision, if it affects you.  Do you think
that restricting the palette to 32 colors would be reasonable?  (for that
matter, does amigaguide.library V34 crash for anyone using a 32 color
screen?  Most of our testing was done on a 16 color screen...) If not, do
you have any alternate suggestions?

We were hoping that the problem would have been fixed with the recent
release of MUI 3.1...  but unfortunately it doesn't appear to have been. 
When we can safely use versions of amigaguide.library greater than 34,
we'll remove the pre-loaded library and any screen depth restrictions that
we might impose at this time.

Comments are more than welcome.

4.  SOFTWARE PIRACY
We've learned that at least one individual has managed to circumvent our
copy protection (the user's registered name encoded into a keyfile), and
has started to circulate pirated copies of "The Digital Universe".  We
realize that cracking our protection scheme is not a very difficult thing
to do, and it was never intended to deter dedicated software pirates.  But
the reason that we're bring this up is to ask you to protect your
investment.  If you learn of anyone spreading illegal versions of "The
Digital Universe", please either try to discourage them from doing so, or
notify us.  Obviously, the best support for the software will come from a
company which has been financially compensated for all of the versions in
use.

And that's about it for this message.  I hope your local weather's been
good for observations lately - we've been getting nothing but snow for the
past several weeks...  :-)

Dan Charrois

--
Syzygy Research & Technology Ltd.      | Creators of "The Digital Universe"
Box 75, Legal, AB, T0G 1L0, CANADA     |         for Amiga computers
WWW: http://www.syz.com                |
email: sales@syz.com, support@syz.com  | 113 deg 35' 28" W, 53 deg 56' 50" N