by Lawrence I. Charters, Vice President,
This was the biggest General Meeting in the past several years, in
complexity and number of vendors if not crowd size. Claris brought a
Centris 610, Tektronix brought a photo-quality dye sublimation color
printer, Microtek brought a ScanMaker IISP color scanner (and the
mysterious "vase of a thousand spills"), Pi member Dennis Dimick brought a
Hi-Fidelity VHS video tape recorder, and Proxima brought an 8mm video tape
player and an Ovation projection system which blasted images from
everything up onto the screen for all to see. It was great: other than a
13" color monitor belonging to the Pi, all the equipment was provided, and
set up, by the vendors or by Pi volunteers. QuickTime Clips
After the usual announcements and question and answer session, the
meeting began with the display of a QuickTime clip created by Pi member
Dennis Dimick. The clip (available for download on the TCS, the Pi's
computer bulletin board) is a fast-paced three-dimensional tour of Crater
Lake, Oregon, a spectacular lake formed in the caldera of Mt. Mazama. This
(theoretically) extinct volcano in the Cascade Mountains exploded
thousands of years ago, and since that time snow and rain have filled in
the crater, creating a lake six miles long, five miles wide and a third of
a mile deep. While it may not be quite the same as visiting Crater Lake
National Park, viewing the QuickTime clip is certainly cheaper, and
zooming across the lake at high speed via your computer offers some unique
thrills, and the FAA doesn't complain, either.
Dennis then showed a videotape of three QuickTime clips, the first by
fellow Pi member Stuart Bonwit. Stuart is a recent convert to the
Macintosh, but he clearly isn't wasting any time: his clip, titled General
Lavine, features "Star Wars" inspired 3D credits rolling off into
infinity, and a mechanical man perfectly synchronized to classical music.
Except for the music, everything was created on the Macintosh, from the
rolling credits to the mechanical man, rendered piece by piece and
assembled, then animated. An abbreviated version of this clip (minus the
music and rolling credits) is on the TCS.
Next was one of Dennis' own compositions, a QuickTime presentation
featuring some brilliant still photos he took on a trip to Peru,
synchronized to Peruvian music. This particular clip won an award for best
documentary QuickTime clip in a recent competition and was published on
CD-ROM. (For those who attended, did you notice the baby sleeping in the
pile of colorful Indian blankets? While all the photos were extraordinary,
this one was my favorite.)
The third clip, also by Dennis, was done as an experiment in adding
motion to still photos. Using his own photographs of people traveling, he
added pan and zoom effects, plus a nice New Age sound track, to create a
striking portrait of modern travel.
These clips inspired a blizzard of questions, which Dennis cheerfully
answered. Unfortunately, the questions threatened to delay the other
presentations, and had to be cut off. I wish to publicly apologize to
Dennis for the sound during these presentations; I wasn't prepared to
amplify sound, so most of the audience probably couldn't appreciate the
pains Dennis and Stuart took to synchronize their carefully selected music
with their imagery.
I also didn't appreciate how many people were interested in QuickTime,
so I'll let you in on a secret: the February General Meeting will feature
the founder of MacroMedia, Marc Canter. Maybe we can prepare a few things
in the interim to dazzle him when he comes to dazzle us? Omnivorous Projection
Bonnie Allen of Proxima Corporation (301-565-9330) gave the first
vendor demonstration. Over the past couple years, Bonnie and Proxima have
graciously loaned the Pi some outstanding projection equipment, allowing
General Meeting presentations to be viewed by a large audience with great
clarity and minimal setup.
And no, we're not saying this just out of gratitude. For the September
meeting, Microsoft flew in an audio-visual specialist who spent two hours
setting up a 200 pound, 3-gun video projection unit, used it to project a
videotape and Mac output (with some difficulty switching between the two),
and people complained it was fuzzy. Bonnie spent roughly three minutes
setting up a self-contained Proxima Ovation panel-projector, and there
were no complaints of any sort about image clarity, and switching from
different computers and videotape formats was instantaneous.
Bonnie also revealed some features we'd never discovered, such as: the
self-contained unit she brought (I don't have the model number since all
the brochures were snatched up) can display NTSC, SECAM or PAL video
formats; has an international power supply that can handle 50 or 60 Hz,
100 to 220 volts; can project Mac and MS-DOS/Windows video; and has
built-in stereo speakers. Bonnie also demonstrated Cyclops, a built-in
"eye" that allows the Proxima to "see" its own projected image. She then
used a laser pointer to play solitaire on her Windows laptop.
If this wasn't enough, she revealed a secret use for the high-tech
laser pointer: they make great cat toys. Cats will chase the red spot
around the house for hours, and never wonder why they can't catch it. Scanning Crayons
Scott Kaye of Microtek (703-527-5605) could have simply showed his
scanner, but scanners are essentially boring rectangular boxes, so he did
something more useful: he gave a mini-seminar on how to use a scanner.
This sparked a surprising number of questions, and one mini-lecture from a
Pi member on the physics of color and optics.
There are many things you can do with a scanner (such as having it
read text into a computer through optical character recognition), but
Scott concentrated on scanning color objects. Even in this context, there
are many different options; do you want an image to be used on the screen?
printed in black on a white sheet of paper? printed on a transparency? or
actually printed in color on paper? Each use has its own set of rules for
getting the best possible image with the least possible waste ("waste" in
this sense meaning overly large scan files and long processing time).
As scanning subjects, Scott used a jumble formed from crayons (nice,
vivid, easily recognized colors), spools of thread (more vivid colors),
money (everyone knows what money is supposed to look like), a picture of
his infant son (of course) and some live, if somewhat battered, flowers.
Scott had just purchased the flowers, complete with an inexpensive (cheap!
cheap!) plastic vase, and the vase wasn't heavy enough to hold them
upright. So the flowers fell over -- again, and again, and again. When he
finally tossed them on the glass to scan, everyone involved in the
presentation sighed in relief, and the flowers looked surprisingly fresh.
Scott, of course, was more impressed with how his son looked. Graphics with Impact
Julie Visnich (703-761-2449; email@example.com)
used the image of Scott's son in her presentation of
ClarisImpact. Aside from a name guaranteed to trigger any
spelling or grammar checker, ClarisImpact has a lot going for
it: a remarkably complete word processor and outliner, very flexible
organization chart tool, a nifty flowchart tool (capable of doing business
flow charts or computer flow charts), a timeline chart tool, a very nice
calendar tool, plus tools for cranking out bar charts, pie charts, line
charts and almost any other kind of chart you might want.
If this wasn't enough, ClarisImpact also can do "slide
show" presentations, or you can use it to print paper documents or make
transparencies. A library of pre-defined styles can help the haggard user
whip out a professional presentation with little effort, or you can create
your own styles. It has a huge clipart library of 2,500 or so images, and
can import and export a wide variety of formats, ranging from EPSF
(Encapsulated PostScript) to CGM (a common MS-DOS graphics standard).
While she didn't mention it, Claris is also working on a Windows version,
opening up the option of using the same presentation on both Macs and
Julie's presentation was very quick, polished, and focused. I was
impressed, and promised not to remind anyone of her troubles trying to do
a presentation on a PowerBook a couple years ago. My lips are sealed. Printing Rainbows
The original idea for October's meeting came from Tektronix. Once upon
a time, Tektronix was known for their display terminals and test gear, but
over the past decade they've made a new name for themselves as the
preeminent manufacturer of high-quality color printers. The October
meeting was designed to show how easy and effortlessly you can create a
modern business presentation, detailing all the steps necessary to create
a color document, from scanning art to editing text to finally printing
transparencies and other color output. But the final step, printing color
output, ran into difficulties.
Joe Pekala, representing Tektronix (301-590-7523), graciously allowed
the other vendors to go first, and they used up virtually all the time.
With his presentation already in trouble due to time constraints, he then
ran into another barrier: his overhead projector wasn't working right.
Instead of projecting a clear image on the screen, most of the light was
bouncing off the ceiling. His nice, beautifully composed color
transparencies (produced on a Tektronix printer, of course) looked dark
and blurry when projected on the screen.
The dark slides, blurry images, darkened room, and early Saturday hour
proved fatal: the audience quickly started nodding off. Joe gamely tried
to press on, but soon gave it up, and afterwards apologized for a "crummy"
demo. Fully aware of the difficulties he faced, I declined to accept the
apology; Joe really is an excellent presenter, and Tektronix printers
really are outstanding.
Joe's presentation outlined the various problems faced in trying to
reproduce accurate color on paper (or transparency film). A photo of an
infant doesn't look exactly like the infant, and a scan of the photo
doesn't look quite like the photo, and there are also differences between
the screen image of the scan and a printed image of the scan. Tektronix
has adopted an eclectic approach to addressing these problems: they
produce color printers that use every one of the major techniques, from
dry toner to dye sublimation to inkjet to solid ink, and do their very
best to make sure that their printers, in each category, are the best.
This is an interesting market. Color printing has traditionally been
very expensive, and Tektronix became a leader by concentrating, and
dominating, the market for low-cost ($10,000 and under) color printers.
About the only thing they hadn't tried was dry-toner printers, so this
fall Xerox and Hewlett-Packard introduced 300 dpi (dots per inch)
dry-toner color printers. Tektronix, however, was hardly sleeping: they
responded almost immediately with their own dry-toner printer, only theirs
was faster and printed at 600 dpi. Isn't capitalism wonderful?
The meeting concluded with a large selection of drawing prizes. In
addition, David Sloan of Micro Products, Inc. (703-912-6903), had some
special offers for Pi members, such as Tektronix color printers (starting
at $2640), Microtek scanners (the featured ScanMaker IISP at $723), and
Proxima projection systems (such as the Ovation 810 projection panel for
$3435). November 1994
November's General Meeting will be a week early, on November 19, to
avoid any conflicts with Thanksgiving. Casady & Greene, a software
company with a history as long as the Mac's, will be showing some of their
newest games and utilities. Be prepared to be both entertained and
Closing the meeting will be a full-fledged demonstration of the
Internet. Since most people don't have a direct link to the Internet, the
demo will be done with the same tools you are likely to use: a high-speed
modem and a Macintosh. Mosaic, Gopher, Fetch and other strange sounding
tools will be shown. This has been the number one demo request for the
year, so come early and get a good seat. December 1994
Roughly a thousand people will descend on the winter edition of the
Pi's Computer Garage Sale, shopping for bargains, gossip and information.
To be held December 10, the Garage Sale will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., at
the Allentown Mall, 6200 Branch Avenue, Camp Springs, Maryland. For those
of you who attended the December 1993 Garage Sale, yes, this is the same
mall, but not the same store.
New feature: for a modest donation to the Pi, you can
have your Macintosh go through a checkup to confirm health or, possibly,
diagnose existing or future problems. A team of recognized Mac gurus has
volunteered to perform the honors. 1995 Meeting Dates
General Meetings for 1995 are scheduled for the following dates (all
the fourth Saturday of the month). Mark your calendars (or, better yet,
put them in your electronic calendars to give you advance notice):
Jan. 28, 1995: Medical House Call: Interactive Home Medical
Guide and Symptom Analysis.
Feb. 25, 1995: the incomparable Marc Canter, showing Meet
Mar. 25, 1995: vendor to be named later.
Apr. 22, 1995: vendor to be named later.
May 27, 1995: vendor to be named later, plus two draft picks. Drawing winners
Data Storage Marketing mouse pad: Allen Beach
PC World mouse pad: Tom Witte
Microsoft FoxPro mouse pad: Jan Bailey, Earl Satterfield, Jim
Rush Computer Rental's ball, Asante "Hitchhiker's Guide to Networking"
towel: Ken Clare
The Printed Word (Microsoft Press): Dorcas Adkins
This is the Mac; It's Supposed to be Fun (Peachpit Press):
The Macintosh Bible Guide to System 7.1 (Peachpit Press):
Getting Started With Microsoft Word for the Apple Macintosh
(Microsoft Press): Ralph Lingeman
The Apple Macintosh Book (Microsoft Press): William
Working With Word 5.1 (Microsoft Press): Thomas Bernes
Everything You Wanted to Know About the Mac (Hayden): Donald
PageMaker 4: An Easy Desk Reference (Peachpit Press):
Menu Planner (Ohio Distinctive Software; courtesy Nancy
Seferian): John Quill
Team NFL CD-ROM: H. Ronald Green
SilverLining (La Cie): Victor Lawrence Taylor
Titleist golf balls (courtesy Tektronix): Tom Bouchard
ClarisImpact (Claris): Charles Stancil Credits
Apple Centris 610: courtesy Claris Corporation
Proxima Ovation LCD projector: courtesy Proxima Corporation
Microtek Scanner: courtesy Microtek Lab, Inc.
Tektronix color dye sublimation printer: courtesy Tektronix, Inc.
Setup and worrying: Julie Visnich, Joe Pekala, Scott Kaye, Bonnie Allen,
Question & Answer Help: Tom Witte