Washington Apple Pi

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February 1996 General Meeting

by Lawrence I. Charters, Vice President, Macintosh

Living at the end of the twentieth century is much like cliff diving: the view rushes past very quickly, you find yourself anxious and short of breath, and there is a nagging feeling it will come to either a glorious finish or an abrupt end. We all love change and excitement, but change is coming faster every day, and the excitement sometimes threatens to turn to panic.

Which usually means you need to stop a moment and reflect on where you are, and how you got here. In February, a large number of us were at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, enthralled by the Pi's Second Annual QuickTime Festival and by Power Computing, the world's largest manufacturer of Macintosh compatibles. In one meeting, we got to see the past, the present, and a view of the future, and it was a blast.

Speaking of blasts, we opened the meeting with a QuickTime clip from a newscast showing the Oregon Department of Highways attempting to remove a dead whale from a beach, with dynamite. It was hilarious ‹ both the news clip and the puzzled, then uncertain, then disbelieving looks of those in the audience. This was followed by a lengthy, professionally amateur music video parody by engineers at Apple called "I'm A Clone Now," shown in honor of Power Computing's visit to the Pi. The whale clip is currently on the TCS, the Pi's bulletin board, and the music video will join it as soon as I feel like uploading all 65 megabytes.

A third short clip, starring one of the TCS's penguins in a stirring dance number, is on the Pi's Explorer World Wide Web page. It is in an obvious place, though the place is not, itself, obvious. Explore.

Frames, Stages, and Sound

The Pi's QuickTime SIG (Special Interest Group) has always been a study in extremes: extremely talented people, doing extremely difficult things, often for no reason beyond the extreme joy of doing so. A year ago, in an effort to showcase this talent and energy, the General Meeting hosted what was grandly called the "First Washington Apple Pi QuickTime Festival," featuring splendid clips created by Pi members using Apple's revolutionary (and free) QuickTime technology.

Many things called "First Annual" never survive to "Second Annual," but the QuickTime Festival did not fade away. In fact, SIG members aggressively, persistently, and regularly pressed for time at the General Meeting to host a second Festival. And with good reason: they've been busy.

Stuart Bonwit showed a clip he created to promote the QuickTime Festival, plus a videotape showing part of a live performance of Swan Lake followed by Stuart's own version, created on his Macintosh. Stuart's version included no clipart: the ballerina was created entirely from polygons formed in Macromedia's Swivel 3D, carefully melded together, then animated frame by frame in Adobe Premiere, then saved as a QuickTime clip, and finally transferred to videotape. A stellar effort.

Dennis Dimick showed two clips, one a tour of the Pi office and TCS room, created from stills captured with a video camera. The second, an impressive clip called "Fresh Farms," was created as a demonstration of QuickTime technology for National Geographic. Dennis credits Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Premiere for the crisp, elegant look of his work, but nobody believes him; talent does not come from good tools.

Bruce O'Leary's contribution was in many ways the most remarkable: a clip showing a three-dimensional Christmas tree, rotating in space with Christmas presents and a greeting to Pi members. It was his very first effort at animation, created the very first time he opened up his copy of Specular's LogoMotion and took it for a spin.

Tom Witte fielded questions from the audience and it soon became clear that many, maybe even most, Macintosh owners don't know their computers can run QuickTime, or that all Macs for the last several years have come with QuickTime pre-installed. If you'd like to see what your Mac can do already, even if you didn't know it, check out the QuickTime file area on the TCS (Area 35); many of the clips shown during the Festival can be found there.

I'm A Clone Now

As for the future, noted author Bob LeVitus (levitus@powercc.com) gave us an extended peek. A little more than a year ago, anything that ran Mac programs had an Apple logo, but much has changed. In addition to writing books and magazine columns, Bob is now Director of Evangelism for Power Computing Corporation (http://www.powercc.com/), the largest manufacturer of Macintosh compatible computers in the world. In fact, it sells more Mac compatibles than all the other Mac clone manufacturers, combined; only Apple itself sells more computers running MacOS.

Power Computing may be a "new" company, but they aren't starting out small. They don't produce just any Mac compatible; they produce Power Mac compatibles. They don't make just a couple dozen boxes a week, either; in their first year, they shipped thousands of machines every month. Bob didn't volunteer any precise figures, but MacWeek reported that 12,000 PowerWave 120 computers had been sold by February 1996, and this is just one of a wide array of models available.

Bob proved to be an excellent, impassioned speaker, constantly moving around on the stage, giving quick, direct answers to questions, and demonstrating both diplomacy and humor. He diplomatically mentioned, for example, that Apple insists on calling Power Computing's offerings "Macintosh compatibles," and that he was forbidden to call them "Mac clones." Naturally, the audience responded by using the word "clone" or "cloning" in the vast majority of questions.

Bob didn't really seem interested in doing a demo, explaining that his monitor had been damaged during shipment. I insisted, and the audience agreed, that he'd be lynched if he didn't boot up the PowerWave 150 he brought to the meeting, and offered the use of the Pi's monitor. He agreed, booted the machine, ran a nice computer slide show talking about Power Computing's history, finances, engineering team, and future plans, and then noted that "it runs just like a Mac, doesn't it?" In this particular case, a really, really fast Mac.

The most remarkable thing about a Power Computing machine, Bob insisted, is that they are unremarkable. They are solidly designed, easy to set up and configure, run the same version of MacOS that Apple's machines do, and do everything you'd expect of a Macintosh. Power Computing's differences are both subtle and profound:

Naturally, many people wanted to know if Power Computing was in it for the long haul, especially in light of Apple's recent mugging on Wall Street. Bob offered a few salient points, starting with the deep pockets of Power Computing's financing partners, the strength of their sales (making them one of the largest computer firms in the U.S. in less than a year), and the solid talent of their engineering team, filled with Apple refugees plus others from IBM, Compaq, and similar backgrounds.

More specifically, Power Computing intends to release an open-architecture PowerPC Platform machine (PPCP, formerly known as CHRP), capable of running MacOS, AIX, Solaris, Windows/NT and other operating systems, as soon as Apple provides the necessary software. Apple has already demonstrated the new software running on an IBM-labeled prototype, and both Apple and Power Computing intend to be selling their respective versions before the end of the year.

Until then, Power Computing intends to sell Mac clones that are faster than Apple's, with a wider array of options, and a first-class bundle of software. Based on evidence so far (see the review in the Journal, Jan./Feb. 1996, pp. 55-59), they are off to a great start.

If you'd like to know more about Power Computing, check out their excellent Web site (http://www.powercc.com/), which has an ingenious "build your own box" section in which you can configure your own personal machine, and see immediately how much it will cost. More conventional contacts are available by calling their sales number at 800-370-7693, or using their fax back service at 800-788-3783.


We ‹ everyone in attendance ‹ tried to convince Power Computing that it would be a Good Idea to donate a PowerWave computer or twenty to the drawing. We were unsuccessful. But Power Computing did give away several hundred copies of The Disc 2, a CD-ROM filled with all kinds of stuff: a customized version of Marathon which allows you to shoot at Bob LeVitus, plus working demos of A-10 Attack, CodeWarrior, Descent, Diamonds, PegLeg, SoftWindows 2.0, and a full application to help you ship stuff via Federal Express, plus lots of other things, including a Windows (!) version of QuickTime. The discs were a big hit: I had to beg Bob for a copy, as the thundering hordes had cleared out all those not hidden away in his baggage.

Send meeting comments to: lcharters@tcs.wap.org.

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