Washington Apple Pi

A Community of Apple iPad, iPhone and Mac Users

July General Meeting

by Lawrence I. Charters, Vice President, Macintosh

June General Meeting
First, a few words about the June General Meeting: there wasn't one. Washington Apple Pi holds their semi-annual Computer Garage Sale in June and December, and no General Meeting is held those months.
The Garage Sale was a hit. Meeting in a large space, a former drug store, there was actually space to walk, space to breathe and, judging by the stuff people were carting out, space to bargain. There were the usual grumbles from people attempting to sell their 10-year old machines for list price (favorite quote: "I need to get $2500 from my Mac Plus so I can buy a Power Mac"), but on the whole everyone seemed happy.
One surprise: the all-day question and answer session. This proved so popular that we may have a variation in December: an annual computer checkup. Providing we can get a few more volunteers, it would work like this: you'd bring in your Mac, and one of the Pi's wizards would check out the hard disk, system folder, fonts and general configuration to see if everything was working as it should. Since this is a time-intensive task, there would probably be a fee (donated to the Pi) involved. If this sounds of interest (either as a potential wizard or a potential patient), contact me in person or by E-mail: lcharters@tcs.wap.org
July General Meeting
Global Village, the popular modem manufacturer, was scheduled for the July General Meeting, along with Microsoft Home, the software giant's consumer division. But Global Village suffered a communications breakdown, an ironic problem for a communications company. No one seems to know why but, even after repeated contacts over several months, they found themselves, a week before the meeting, completely unprepared to visit . They begged to come back at some future date. While I won't claim to be susceptible to bribery, the Pi could really use one of the new Global Village fax servers. And I'm very fond of Mrs. Field's chocolate chip cookies (no nuts).
Apple Computer, eager to show that it, too, is a communications company, stepped in to show their new eWorld telecommunications service. Ken Thom, Tools and APIs Product Manager (remember when Apple used to call such people "software magicians" and the like?), fired up his trusty PowerBook 180c and took the audience on a tour. This tour was a bit rocky, thanks to a too-short telephone extension cord and telephone line noise brought on by rain. It was interesting to see the response: Ken was clearly frustrated, but the audience took it all in stride. Compared to driving on the Capitol Beltway, even a rocky Information Superhighway is no strain...
Ken freely admitted that eWorld uses technology purchased from America Online, yet convincingly argued it was not a clone of AOL, but an alternative. He also stated that, for all practical purposes, it is a replacement for AppleLink, Apple's once-innovative but now very creaky telecommunications service used by dealers, developers, and many user groups. His proof of this point was quite simple: eWorld software is pre-installed on all new Macintosh computers, and Apple employees are moving their electronic mail accounts to eWorld (Ken's address, for example, is kenthom@eworld.com).
[At MacWorld Boston, which began three days after the meeting, all the Apple employees I met had eWorld accounts, too, except for one wild-eyed mad scientist who had set up his own Internet node in his living room back in Cupertino, California. I wonder if his business card says Software Magician?]
While eWorld is clearly a work in progress (the service opened for business just a couple weeks before the meeting), it also clearly has promise. For those with no background in telecommunications, it presents a nice, friendly, easy to use interface. The software comes on a single disk, and the "manual" is a single poster-sized, illustrated sheet of paper.
For those who want more than ease of use, eWorld is also surprisingly quick -- orders of magnitude faster than AppleLink and, because of some neat shortcuts, arguably faster than most text-based telecommunications services and bulletin boards. It looks sparsely populated compared to CompuServe, GEnie or AOL, but it is growing rapidly, and offers all the usual amenities: on-line conversation, advice and gossip; electronic mail; on-line banking and shopping; a complete electronic encyclopedia; stock quotes; some exceptionally well done on-line newspapers and news service features -- all attractively packaged in an easy to learn, easy to use format.
After the meeting, Ken mentioned a few technical details, one of which is particularly impressive: eWorld is built using fault-tolerant super-minicomputers and workstations. Most on-line services are based on mainframe computers, and these tend to bog down as demand grows. But eWorld employs a state of the art distributed network, and in theory could accommodate virtually unlimited growth with little or no effect on response time.
To try out eWorld, open up almost any Mac-related magazine and send in the postage-paid eWorld reply card, or call 1-800-775-4556 and request a free disk. Naturally, you must have a working Macintosh, a working modem, and a working phone line for this to be worthwhile.
Microsoft Home
Microsoft Home, the consumer software arm of Microsoft Corporation, then demonstrated a few of their new products. Reed Probst (reedp@microsoft.com) brought a CD-ROM equipped Macintosh to demonstrate two new CD-ROM titles, Microsoft Bookshelf '94 and Microsoft Encarta, and also demonstrated the floppy-based Fine Artist.
Fine Artist is intended, according to Microsoft's literature, for "kids ages 8 and up." It offers some very clever tools for making cartoons, banners, signs and ordinary pictures, though the "ordinary" pictures can also have sound. Everything (except the sound) can then be printed on paper, in color if you have a color printer. There are text-based instructions if you ask for them, but you probably won't. Several levels of undo allow aspiring artists to overcome errors, or just change their mind, with no effort.
Microsoft Bookshelf '94 is a surprisingly complete reference library, all on a single CD-ROM. Included are The American Heritage Dictionary, The Original Roget's Thesaurus, The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations, The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia, Hammond Intermediate World Atlas, The People's Chronology and The World Almanac and Book of Facts 1994. A number of navigation tools allow you to do random browsing or search for specific bits of information using a number of criteria, and the searches can be limited to a particular volume or span everything on the "bookshelf."
In addition to text, the CD-ROM also has 80,000 spoken pronunciations, 60 animations, 40 audio clips, 160 national anthems, 230 flags and 160 maps.
Microsoft Encarta is a 29 volume encyclopedia on a single CD-ROM, with 26,000 articles knitted together by 300,000 links between the articles. There are 7,000 photos and illustrations, 8 hours of sounds, 100 animations, 800 maps and 250 interactive charts, giving credence to Microsoft's claim that it is "The Complete Multimedia Encyclopedia."
For those interested in Fine Artist, Microsoft Encarta or Microsoft Bookshelf, Reed donated copies of all three to Washington Apple Pi. Come in to the office (if you can find it; see below) and give them a try.
August 1994
The General Meeting on August 27 will be hosted by the Games SIG (Special Interest Group). Traditionally, this meeting is not limited to just Macs; expect to see Apple II, IIgs, and maybe even MS-DOS/Windows games. As this is written, the event is in the future; by the time you read it, everything will be over, and you probably had a great time.
September 1994
Washington Apple Pi will be moving in September. If you have a big truck, a strong back, and some packing boxes, or any combination of these, we can save Big Bucks by moving ourselves. We are moving to save money on rent, and every dime we spend on renovating our new quarters and moving the office will help save even more money. Since no computer expertise is required, it would be Real Nice if we saw something other than the usual band of volunteers.
One thing that is not moving is the Sept. 24 General Meeting which, like the rest of the meetings for the year, will be at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale. Provided they finish writing it in time, Microsoft will be on hand to show off Microsoft Word 6.0, Excel 5.0 and PowerPoint 4.0. Power Macintosh owners, in particular, are keeping their fingers crossed, but both these applications have been long, long anticipated.
October 1994
The General Meeting on October 22 should feature multiple vendors demonstrating how you can design and print spectacular documents using standard Macintosh office applications and a little bit of ingenuity. Unfortunately, not all the vendors have confirmed as of this moment; check the TCS (Washington Apple Pi computer bulletin board) for late-breaking details. I'd also recommend you check the Pi office, but I don't know where the Pi office will be in October...
November 1994
Not wishing to conflict with Thanksgiving, the General Meeting will be a week early, on November 19. Two vendors will do presentations, but the only one confirmed at this moment is Casady & Greene, one of the oldest Macintosh software companies, showing some of the newest games and utilities.
December 1994
Date and location are unknown at this writing, but roughly a thousand people will descend on the winter edition of the Pi's Computer Garage Sale, shopping for bargains, gossip and information. See the first paragraph for details.
Drawing winners
SCSI hat (vendor unknown): Jan Bailey
Zyxel T-shirt (Zyxel): Robert J. Fetterolf
MacWorld DC T-shirt: Mary Ellen Jehn
BMUG CD-ROM (BMUG): Rob Fetterolf
BMUG CD-ROM (BMUG): John Barnes
[Note: I forgot to give out an entire stack of drawing prizes. But they'll disappear at the next opportunity.]
Apple Macintosh IIci: donated by Falcon Microsystems
Bernoulli 150 drive: loan courtesy Iomega Corporation
Proxima Ovation projection system: loan courtesy Proxima Corporation
Setup and worrying: Lorin Evans, Beth Medlin, Bill Wydro
Novice Corner, Question & Answer Help: Tom Witte

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

So far, the only comments I've received have been from non-Pi members, mostly in other states and countries.

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