Fortran for Mac

Java may be the hot computer language of the nineties, but you wouldn’t know it to look at business and government sites; in the real world, older languages like COBOL and FORTRAN (Gfortran) are still doing much of the day-to-day work at banks, government labs, and NASA. In big-project scientific and numeric calculation, for example, the ancient FORTRAN language in one of its newer forms–FORTRAN 77 or FORTRAN 90–is still grinding away on optimized legacy code.

Source code originally written for Cray and Fujitsu supercomputers can now run without serious modification on a Mac using latest Gfortran package. This formidable suite includes compilers for FORTRAN 77, the more modern FORTRAN 90, and the thoroughly modern C/C++ (optimized for use in the MPW Shell); IMSL’s FORTRAN numeric and statistics libraries, the best available for any language, are available as an option. All this magnificence takes a little more programming background to put into action than the new CodeWarrior-adapted LS FORTRAN from Fortner Research, but compiled code runs two to three times faster with Gfortran –and for most FORTRAN users, speed of executables is the number one consideration.

Fortran Mac

The Gfortran program makes itself practically invisible: you simply install it, set a few options, and watch the Pro FORTRAN compiler devour your source code. On four benchmarks–two of my own and two industry-standard SPECmark routines–the compiled code running on a 604e-based Mac executed roughly twice as fast as the same programs compiled in LS FORTRAN. The Absoft product also breezed through a grueling test pastiche of combined C and FORTRAN code.

As a language that started life when RAM was measured in 4KB chunks, Gfortran has a huge bag of optimization tricks and is the topic of many reference books–and the new FORTRAN-based teaching language F suggests that FORTRAN will have some big-computer tasks all to itself for at least another decade.

PROS: Superior performance of compiled code; few Mac porting modifications.
CONS: Some popular editor features missing.

Category: Tools
Version: 9.2
Download Size: 80 MB
License: Free to try
Release Date: October 1, 2019
Last Updated: December 6, 2019
System requirements: Mac OS X 10.14 or later

Download Gfortran

Replacement Keyboards

Replacement Keyboards for Mac

Despite all the publicity surrounding the potential health risks of computing, most people don’t give more than a passing thought to choosing a new or replacement keyboard for their Macintosh. That’s a shame, because keyboards are probably responsible for the lion’s share of computer-related injuries.

Although they’re not meant to directly compete with each other, two new keyboards from Mac-peripheral veterans Matias and Macally’s illustrate the range of choices available.

Generic Input

True to its name, Matias Keyboard-in-a-Box offers a no-frills option for people on a budget who need a full-size keyboard. The keyboard sports a row of 15 function keys across the top, a numeric keypad at the far right, and a standard complement of cursor-control and page-navigation keys in between. The supplied six-foot cable connects the Mac to an ADB jack on either side of the keyboard. Like other input devices, the solidly built Keyboard-in-a-Box carries a five-year warranty.

The Keyboard-in-a-Box’s nearly silent keys feel a trifle spongy when pressed. As with other conventional keyboards, the Keyboard-in-a-Box’s keys are laid out in neat rows that tend to make your palms angle upward as you type, which puts stress on your wrists. Plastic feet at the back of the keyboard let you tilt it upward slightly; unfortunately, this position only accentuates the bend in your wrists, adding to the strain. (To be fair, these drawbacks are shared by all conventional keyboards. And to Matias credit, the brief manual includes a helpful section on workspace ergonomics and proper typing technique.)

Split Layout

Macally’s SmartBoard is designed to overcome the deficiencies of conventional designs like that of the Keyboard-in-a-Box, although there’s no guarantee that ergonomic keyboards can prevent or lessen injury.
The most obvious difference is the setup of the keys: instead of being arranged in horizontal rows, they’re split into two groups that are angled away from each other. This odd-looking layout, popularized by Microsoft’s Natural Keyboard, helps you keep your hands and forearms in a straight line when you’re typing, which minimizes the strain on your wrists. The two groups of keys are also angled slightly upward at the center, which allows your arms to assume a more natural position.
Unlike those of most keyboards, the SmartBoard’s fold-down feet–Macally’s calls them Wrist Levelers–are located at the front, so they tilt the keyboard backward slightly when they’re deployed. Negative tilt minimizes bending at the wrist, which may help prevent some computer-related injuries.

Unique Keypad

The SmartBoard sports another unusual feature that is claimed to provide additional ergonomic benefits. Instead of being uniform, like the key caps on most other keyboards, the SmartBoard’s keys vary in size, with the largest keys located farthest from the center. According to Matias, this makes it easier to type on the SmartBoard than on conventional or other split keyboards. Although I wasn’t able to verify this specific claim, the SmartBoard was easier on my hands and wrists than other keyboards I’ve used.

Alas, the SmartBoard also differs from standard keyboards in a few annoying respects. For example, there are only 12 function keys, so you’ll need to find a workaround if any of your applications require F13 through F15. The power key is located at the bottom left of the keyboard: it’s easy to hit it accidentally, bringing up the Mac OS shutdown dialog box.

It also took me a while to find the +/= key at the top right of the keyboard, instead of in its customary place next to the delete key. (According to Matias, the SmartBoard’s unusual key placements were necessary to keep the keyboard’s footprint small enough for the keyboard to fit on standard keyboard trays. The SmartBoard is actually an inch narrower than the Keyboard-in-a-Box.)

Like most other unorthodox keyboards, the SmartBoard has a definite learning curve–it took me more than a week to work back up to my usual typing speed. If you use a SmartBoard at home and a standard keyboard at the office–or the other way around–you may find it hard to switch back and forth every day.

PowerBook G3/300

Review PowerBook G3/300 – Back To History

The PowerBook G3/300, which represents the high end of the portable line, is the only Apple notebook bundled with a DVD-ROM drive and an MPEG PC Card, both of which are needed to run DVD movies. If you have a different PowerBook G3 model, you’ll need to buy a DVD kit for movie playback, and none were available as we went to press, even though one is on Apple’s price list for $499. Due to supply constraints, Apple suspended the build-to-order option for PowerBooks at least until October, but the company says it does not plan to offer the DVD kit separately at that time. Once the kit ultimately does become available, it will work with all PowerBook G3 models introduced since last May–as long as they have an active-matrix display. (Passive-matrix screens can’t properly support DVD due to their lower refresh rates.)

Power Book G3

Luckily, this PowerBook configuration is an exceptionally good value: a 300MHz PowerPC G3 with a 1MB backside cache; an 8GB hard drive; 64MB of RAM; 4MB of SDRAM for video; and, of course, the DVD-ROM drive and MPEG PC Card–all for $4,999. Compare this with the same configuration of the 292MHz G3 portable that this machine replaces, which cost $600 more and didn’t include the DVD kit.

You also get a super sharp, 14.1-inch, color, active-matrix screen, which will now be standard equipment on all new PowerBook models except for one under-$2,000 “value” configuration with a 12-inch passive-matrix screen. (Apple has also boosted performance on the low end of the line by adding a much needed 512K backside cache to the 233MHz PowerBook G3.)
As for the DVD capability, you have to see it to believe how great a movie can look played back full screen on the PowerBook’s active-matrix display. Video purists may find fault in the modest pixel interpolation required to take native DVD resolution up to the PowerBook’s full 1,024-by-768-pixel display, but you always have the option of shrinking the image down to 720 by 480 pixels.

Of course, playing a movie won’t do you much good if the battery runs out during the cliffhanger, which might happen if you don’t manage your power wisely. In tests where virtual memory was on and the hard disk stayed spinning, battery life fell short of 11/2 hours. But with virtual memory off, we could eke out two hours, enough for most full-length movies. However, we noticed occasional video stuttering as the hard drive accessed vital routines.

One solution to the power drain would be to put the laptop to sleep and pop in a fresh battery, but this doesn’t work because the Apple DVD Player quits if you invoke the sleep option. Luckily, the DVD software lets you jump directly to a scene, so you can get pretty close to where you left off, should you need to switch batteries. However, this works only if the DVD title supports scene selection.

Despite the inability to put a movie to sleep, Apple’s DVD software is easy to use and supports all major DVD features, including subtitles and second audio-program tracks.

Speeds and Feeds

The PowerBook G3/300 also supports resolution switching, another standard feature on new Apple laptops. Instead of being locked into the single 1,024-by-768-pixel resolution of the previous G3 PowerBook models, the new portables can reset the built-in display to 800-by-600 or even 640-by-480 resolution. However, the PowerBook’s antialiasing (pixel smoothing) is fairly primitive and leaves images at these lower resolutions looking somewhat out of focus. Whatever you do, don’t combine lower resolutions with DVD video–the results aren’t pretty.
We saved CPU performance for last because it is the least-interesting improvement on this model. While Apple kicked up the processor speed from 292MHz to 300MHz, it reduced the bus speed from 83MHz to 66MHz. The result is largely a performance wash (see “Faster by a Nose”).
A couple of other nice performance tweaks: as on the iMac, Apple has added support for the V.90 protocol to the modem built into all new PowerBooks. In our tests, the modem could more consistently make faster connections than could older modems following the K56flex protocol. (Apple plans to offer a software patch for download from its Web site so you can upgrade older modems to V.90.) Apple has also added ATI’s latest low-power 3-D-acceleration chip set, Rage LT Pro. This, combined with the built-in 4MB of video RAM, makes for pretty snappy portable game play.

Buying Advice

Being a mobile-computing aficionado and a movie buff who’s already invested heavily in the DVD format, this reviewer greeted the arrival of the new DVD-equipped PowerBook with a mixture of joy and chagrin. Joy, because no product could be better suited to his travel needs than a DVD theater that fits in a briefcase. Chagrin, because like any good PowerBook fanatic, he had already bought a high-end PowerBook without DVD.
However, sore feelings aside, the new PowerBook is a good step forward for a product that was already at the top of its class in price and performance. For some high-end users, the DVD alone will justify buying a new PowerBook G3/300 and passing your DVD-less notebook down the company food chain.