Washington Apple Pi

A Community of Apple iPad, iPhone and Mac Users

June General Meeting

Lawrence I. Charters, Vice President, Macintosh

Since this is an election year it probably won't surprise you that the title is misleading: there was no June General Meeting. But on Saturday, June 1, there was the summer edition of the Washington Apple Pi Computer Show and Sale, better known as The Garage Sale. It was also the first really warm weekend of the year, and the date of the WHFS rock festival at RFK Stadium. Over 50,000 attended the rock festival; a somewhat smaller attended the Garage Sale at the Northern Virginia Community College (Annandale) gymnasium.

I have no idea what most of the people did at the Garage Sale. I never had a chance to wander around and see what was being sold, or talk to the tire kickers, or even find the restrooms. From before the doors officially opened, until minutes after we started shutting everything down, I was trapped at the Computer Checkout Table.

Our motto: If You Bring It, We'll Check It. Fortunately, people limited themselves to computers; we would have had trouble with, say, scrawny kittens or cranky Model-T Fords. We had only one failure: someone brought in a Power Mac 7100 with multiple problems, and we couldn't get it to even display an image on the monitor. While it had many minor problems, this allegedly wasn't one of them -- "I don't know why it is doing this; at least this part works at home."

The Checkout Table boasted a turn-away crowd. Even with assistance from Pi President Lorin Evans and, on a couple occasions, Tom Witte (who spent the rest of his time managing the show), there were people constantly lined up. Some drifted away, unwilling to wait, or unwilling to hold their equipment while standing in line. They brought old Macs, new Macs, and really new Macs ("Gee, this is the first time I've seen one of these!" "Well, maybe you shouldn't be checking it, then." "Are you kidding? I'd love to take a look at it!"). Significantly, the oldest machine we saw was a Mac Plus, and we saw only one of those. It was in working condition, if somewhat confused about the hard drive someone was trying to attach to it. A few minutes of quiet counseling, plus installation of a compatible operating system, turned this into a happy, functional machine again.

The most common problem, aside from general disorganization ("Why can't I have 7,600 files in the System Folder?") was: dead batteries. We saw Mac LC, LC II, and LC III machines with dead batteries, Mac IIsi machines with dead batteries, and a PowerBook 100 with multiple dead batteries. In at least a couple cases, people must have suspected this was the problem because they "just happened to have" whatever exceedingly uncommon lithium battery was used in their particular Mac.

Another common theme: clutter. Several people explained that "I was told to add this update file to my computer, so I did," but instead of an installed update, or patching a program, the compressed update archive was dropped in the System Folder, or the patching program was placed on the machine and the application it patched was thrown away, or some variation. One person had carefully placed eight successive updates, decompressed, of a program in the program's folder; all told, these came to 1,100 files. Yet none of the patches had actually been applied. In every case, without exception, the user admitted that they hadn't bothered to read the instructions which came with the patch.

This illustrates an interesting dilemma: people want less expensive software, and they want rapid updates to software; this clearly implies electronic distribution, with users applying the updates themselves. But many users don't seem to understand how to update their own software. Purchasing updates from the vendors directly would probably work better for many people, but would also be slower and more expensive. Help with the inexpensive "do it yourself" approach is a Pi specialty -- users helping users. But for many of these people (several of them members), it had never occurred to them to attend a Pi meeting or tutorial, or call to ask questions on the TCS, the Pi's computer bulletin board. Perhaps we need periodic articles in the Journal on "How to use a user group?"

Several people suggested we sell tickets: as I checked the machines, I'd explain what I was doing, and this attracted a crowd. Even bigger crowds gathered if the cover was taken off a machine, and a tour was given ("This is a hard drive, that is a floppy, these are memory chips, that is a giant dust bunnyĆ ") Lorin incited a small mob scene when he disassembled a PowerBook 100; offering ice cream snacks in a kindergarten probably couldn't attract so many excited, eager faces.

Suggestions, and volunteers to staff those suggestions, are being actively sought for the next Garage Sale, in December. The Checkout Table is an obvious success; what else would be of value? Tutorials? Classes in Internet surfing? (Bring your own beach towel.) Send suggestions to the E-mail address at the bottom of the article.

Drawing Winners

What would a Pi Garage Sale be without door prizes? Several Pi members (and the entire staff) have suggested we give away items from the second tutorial room at the Pi office. While some of this stuff probably has something to do with the kind of computers we know and love, other items are so ancient or obscure that they look to be not only pre-microprocessor, but pre-light bulb. It would have gone like this:

"Welcome to the Washington Apple Pi Garage Sale! Oh, look -- you are a drawing winner! Have this!"

"What is it?"

"We have no idea! But we'll help you put it in your car right now!"

But nooooo -- boring traditionalist insisted we give away something (usually) more identifiable, such as:

America Online T-shirt (AOL): Luke Short
What's On the Internet (Peachpit Press): Michelle Robb
Art Studio 2 (Micrografx): Marcie Calcagno
Apple tote bag (Apple): C. Richard Goodman
Now Utilities (Now Software): Harvey Cohen
WordPerfect QuickStart (Peachpit Press): Harley Nygren
America Online T-shirt (AOL): Amy Triplett
Amazing Animation (Claris): Eileen Powers
User Group Connection mouse pad (UGC): Jay Miller
PlusWare keypad (PlusWare): Dale Rivers
Internet Yellow Pages (Osborne-McGraw-Hill): Carol O'Connor
Webhead (Peachpit Press): Teague Clare
America Online T-shirt (AOL): Michael Weagley
User Group Connection mouse pad (UGC): Charlie Stancil
America Online T-shirt (AOL): Paul Simon
PageMaker QuickStart (Peachpit Press): Milton Goldsamt
Abacus keypad (Keytronic): Michael Mattie
Wiz Tools (ASP Software): Marianne Teague
Web Arranger 2.0 (CE Software): Elmer Keene

The drawing prize form has a space in which the lucky winner gets to say what kind of computer, or computers, they own. There was the expected mix of Apple II, Mac and PC machines, but one person listed an Amdahl mainframe. They must have a most impressive air conditioning bill.

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

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