by Steven Kiepe, Vice President for Programs
Saturday morning revealed a day of great promise with temperatures destined to reach into the 70s and little more than sprinkles on the horizon (mother nature had other plans though but that's a separate story). Regardless, a core group of Washington Apple Pi members gathered at NOVA for a morning of tag-team presentations.
After Lawrence Charters completed yet another of his trademark marathon question and answer sessions, our first guest speaker took the stage. Michael Slage, President of the Society for International Space Cooperation (SISC), presented an outline of SISC's involvement with Apple computers and its expanding vision for the future. SISC is a Washington, DC based non-profit organization which pursues projects on space exploration and education worldwide. With chapters distributed across every continent on the globe, much of the organization is "virtual" in nature, using the Internet to provide the required connection between its members. SISC maintains a web site at http://www.spacesociety.org
In order to provide the connectivity vital to SISC's cohesion as a single organization, the group relies heavily on Apple technology. Many of SISC's projects are conducted long distance via a form of tele-conferencing. In order to achieve this, SISC uses Apple QuickTime video streaming and Sorenson Broadcasting solutions, streamed across the Internet. Because high speed network connectivity is not yet universal, the QuickTime video stream is optimized to work across relatively low speed service such as that provided with 33.6 Kbps modems. QuickTime and Sorenson Broadcast compress the video feed sufficiently to support these conferenced projects in spite of the low speed of Internet access.
SISC is about to embark on a new project, creating an online web television experience called SpaceWatch TV. This new project will use QuickTime streaming to broadcast a TV style video presentation via the Internet 24 hours a day. The service will begin on April17th. Apple is one of many corporate partners in this endeavor and SISC is working closely with the Apple Learning Interchange http://www.ali.apple.com. Apple Macintosh computers and video solutions appear ideal for production of SISC's projects.
The Space Express project is another new SISC initiative that focused on space education worldwide. It is a state of the art, mobile classroom outfitted with racks of equipment similar to that which might be found on the space shuttle or international space station. The Space Express project will kick off this summer and will bring this mobile learning center to schools and population centers throughout Western Europe. Visitors will be able to conduct hands on "missions" like those to be conducted in space. To learn more about the Space Express project, check out http://www.spacesociety.org/spaceexpress.
Corel Takes the Stage
The second presenter of the morning had come all the way from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Jill Perry, a Corel product specialist in graphic and consumer products (and admitted Mac fanatic), traveled to Washington Apple Pi to demonstrate a range of products including Corel's KnockOut, Photo-Paint 8, Print Office 2000, Print House 2000 and Custom Photo.
Jill kicked off her presentation by demonstrating how KnockOut, a recent Corel acquisition, can make quick work of cutting even the most difficult of objects from the background in a picture. In a few quick strokes, she showed how a teddy bear was lifted from a busy background yet kept his fur, ready to be seamlessly pasted into a new picture. She cut a woman out of a cluttered image with extra complications like over-bright spots caused by the sun, yet every stray hair transferred intact while the background vanished. It was an amazing demonstration and garnered much attention from the audience. Just as importantly, Jill noted that while the program had previously sold for $500, Corel is now offering it for sale for a limited time as an online download for the low price of $99. The current version is at 1.1 and Corel expects to release v1.5 in the near future. Those who download the 1.1 version will be entitled to a free upgrade to the new version. To get your copy, visit Corel at their web site at http://www.corel.com. Based on the group's response, I expect that there were quite a few Pi downloads right after the show ended (I downloaded my copy last night!).
After extracting the chosen images, Jill moved on to a demonstration of the capabilities of Photo-Paint 8. She took several different landscape pictures and stitched them together into one wide image. Using cloning tools and Photo-Paint's image sprayer, Jill blended landscape pictures of desert, ocean and arctic into a seamless environment. She then pasted a few of her previously masked pictures, added some clip art and special effects, and then tied the ends of the image back together into a ring thereby creating a 360 degree QuickTime VR image. It was a painful demonstration for me to watch because she executed the entire evolution near effortlessly, completed in only a few minutes, and I'm still working on drawing stick people.
For the truly non-artistic of us, Jill next offered hope. Corel's new applications for the Mac, Print Office 2000 and Print House 2000, are powerful programs with an interface designed to be simple enough for beginner use. Both applications are identical at their core and are bundled with Photo House, an image manipulation program. The programs differ in their bundling of templates and clip art. Print Office has a wide range of templates primarily oriented toward the small office or home business. Print House's templates and clip art are more appropriate for family use in creating newsletters, greeting cards, school projects and the like.
Jill began by demonstrating the use of Print Office 2000 in creating a brochure for a hypothetical resort. Beginning from scratch rather than using one of the bundle's many templates, she selected the paper type and layout (3 fold brochure) and then began importing clip art and photos from a large catalog of canned and custom images. The pictures were easily placed, resized and aligned as necessary to build the brochure. Some of her images required a bit of manipulation so Jill opened the included Photo House application while still inside Print Office and cut away extraneous background. She then wrapped text on a path around the irregular image and added special effects designed to highlight the points of interest. The seamless integration between applications made it look as if a single program was doing all of the work. She then dropped the modified clip art on her brochure in work and continued without a pause. The combination application included capabilities still unknown in high-end image editing programs like Adobe's Photoshop!
Jill continued to build her brochure, inserting text boxes and demonstrating how text could be made to automatically flow from one box to another. She added a leading drop cap, custom shadows to other text areas, and her brochure was complete. Jill then demonstrated a special attribute of the program, the built-in ability to directly post the completed object to a FTP or internet web site from within the Print Office application. The program also has numerous export options including JPEG for near universal compatibility with other computer operating systems. Print Office and Print House both have a large selection of text and graphic import capabilities that include most industry common application types.
Corel's plans for future renditions of WordPerfect for Macintosh were discussed. Jill noted that a final decision on this program had not yet been made but that a complete rewrite of the program would be required due to the "fragility" of the existing code. Jill noted that WordPerfect for Macintosh is now available as a free download from Corel at their web site and that the number of downloads are being monitored in an attempt to gage the amount of interest in the program. Jill suggested that individuals interested in seeing WordPerfect for Macintosh revised should send her email to that effect at email@example.com.
The group's meeting time was up but Jill still found herself surrounded by interested Pi members for another 40 minutes. Regardless, we continued with the regularly scheduled drawing and there were quite a few winners. Although Tom Witte was not in attendance to throw them to the crowd, we nonetheless passed out a bunch of T-Shirts. Winners included Alex Maish, Bob Wilbur, Sidney Koss, Don Wong, Glenn Rounsevell and Gerald Klis. Recipients of two "Muggy Bears" (future collectibles?) included Ellen Grachow, and Hal Calithen. Ruth Ann Bates walked away with an Apple motif carry bag, Edwin Jordan got an Apple branded coffee mug, and Gabriel Roth and Bill Durham both took home books on Creating HTML 4 web pages. The grand prize winners were Bill Hark who won a Corel Custom Photo software package and Ken Clare who took home Print House 2000.
Still to come
The Pi has a still evolving but promising spring and early summer schedule. Presentations in the near term are shaping up as follows: April 22nd will see the long anticipated Adobe In-Design and will be a two presenter show as Darek Mihoka demonstrates his Gemulator Macintosh emulator for Windows based machines. FileMaker Pro will be the headliner presentation on May 20th. Our June 3rd meeting is the semi-annual Pi garage sale and swapmeet at the NOVA CC auditorium. We have a very encouraging schedule developing for late summer and fall. Apple and UMAX are confirmed and we're working to match schedules with 3dfx and Power On Software. We are still negotiating with a half dozen other hardware and software developers. We also anticipate fitting the annual QuickTime Festival into our schedule, probably in August or September so any budding cinematographer's best get busy. We expect to continue to bring some of the leading hardware and software developers for the Macintosh to the Pi, however this largely depends on you. One of the reasons these developers are willing to travel across the US or even from outside the country is because we typically pull in anywhere from 150 to 250 Mac users to our general meetings. We've seen some drop off these last few months and that undermines the enticement for the developers to attend. Spread the word to the non-Pi Mac user base and try to reserve a few hours on the mornings of our general meetings to attend these sessions. Do what you can to help ensure that the Pi can continue to recruit the kind of developer presentations that you have come to expect.
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Revised March 26, 2000 Lawrence I. Charters
Washington Apple Pi