Once again this month, we had two excellent presenters. Terry Kunysz, President of Casady & Greene (http://www.casadyg.com) and Jack Quattlebaum, Advisory Systems Engineer for Publishing, New Media and Entertainment from Apple Computer in Atlanta (http://www.apple.com/).
After the usual Question and Answer session, handled deftly as usual by Lawrence Charters, Terry Kunysz launched directly into a demo of Conflict Catcher 3. Right away I was impressed. The screen of his Powerbook was literally covered with startup icons. I don't know about you, but I used to shudder every time I noticed that a new software package installed a new gizmo extensions folder. Many of these extensions make "patches" to the MacOS and loading them in the wrong order can cause serious havoc. CC3 includes a database of poorly behaved extensions and will attempt to automatically rearrange things to prevent problems from happening. In addition, if you do have a problem, you can have it automatically attempt to locate the offending extension. This program is a must-have for any Mac user. It has won top honors from all of the Macintosh press, and Terry told us that is now being bundled with Power Computing's MacOS machines.
Next we were treated to a demo of SpellCatcher. You may remember this package as Thunder 7. It's a spell checker that replaces the multitude of dictionaries you now have on your hard disk. Try this simple test: go to Find File in the Apple Menu and type the word Dictionary. Add up the space used by the various dictionaries on your hard disk. I found 23 different dictionaries on my system eating up 122 MB of disk space. What a waste.
Add to that the fact that Eudora Lite doesn't have a spell checker for my e-mail and it becomes easy to see why this product has a market. You can use the clipboard to check spelling or it will replace the built-in spell checker in many popular applications. It includes different sounds for different problems and has a quick-correct feature to correct as you type.
Terry then launched into a demo of his latest product, Keep It Simple Spreadsheet. Now I thought the last thing we needed at this point was another spreadsheet package. You may remember that it was VisiCalc for the Apple II that gave Apple its big boost back in the seventies and legitimized the personal computer as more than a toy for geeks. Well KISS is as different from VisiCalc and its progeny as it could be. Yes, it is a spreadsheet, but the methods used to create the spreadsheet and the human interface are unique. Instead of building a monolithic block of cells and typing in arcane formulas, you simply pick operators from a palette and click on the cells they operate on. Its sort of like building something from the Lego blocks the kids play with. The beauty of this is that you can save the operations as a new tool and distribute them to your friends and colleagues. You can also include these new tools in other spreadsheets for more complicated calculations. The package comes with a host of pre-made tools and you can add them yourself easily. It's hard to describe in words, you really had to be there.
Which leads me to my monthly diatribe on meeting attendance. Yes, I know, what with kids soccer, banking, laundry, etc. it is hard to give up a Saturday morning, but believe me, it is worth it. If you really use your Mac, and want to keep abreast of the state of the art you need to attend the General Meetings. We solicit vendors, rent the hall, beg and borrow equipment and cajole volunteers for you. I don't get up there and introduce the vendors to have my ego stroked. In fact, I try to do as little as possible. The best meetings are the ones in which I can just introduce the presenters and sit back and enjoy the meeting with the rest of the members. Often, I am busy setting up equipment and making last-minute adjustments to the schedule with the vendors and miss much of the Q&A. I hate to miss it because it is the one place other than the TCS where I can pick up a great tidbit which will save me some time or prevent me from having a problem. Please, make time to attend a meeting now and then. You'll be glad you did.
Okay. I'll put away the soap box for another few months. Back to Casady and Greene. The next demo was of a really interesting product, Origami, The Secret Life of Paper. Terry told us that the developer of this CD-ROM had developed an entirely new authoring tool for this product. It is truly one of the most beautiful computer products I've ever witnessed. In addition to Quicktime movies of Origami technique, it includes hypertext links to definitions and additional information and a "gallery" of Origami masterpieces and biographies of Origami Masters. Once again, you had to be there to be impressed. Terry offered some great user group discounts on his products if ordered at the meeting and brought a VERY large box of software to give away. We hope that those of you who were lucky enough to win a software package will review it for the Journal. It's really easy. Just use the package for a while and sit down at your computer some evening and tell us about your experience with the package. Did you like it? Did it meet or exceed your expectations? Did it help you with some problem or task? We're not asking for Steven King or Hemingway.
Next, Jack Quattlebaum of Apple Computer's Atlanta office gave us an update on the status of MacOS 8. As announced at MacWorld in Boston, the releases formerly known as Copeland and Gershwin are no more. Apple's new CEO, Dr. Gil Amelio, has, I think wisely, decided to set a schedule for releases of new system software and stick to the schedule, releasing upgrades to the system piece by piece until the announced capabilities of "Copeland" and "Gershwin" are delivered sometime in 1998.
I'm sure this was a difficult decision to make. Lots of the developers were expecting to leave MacWorld with a "beta" copy of MacOS 8 so they could begin coding for the new release. What they got instead was an announcement that Apple had changed its strategy for releasing MacOS 8.
Jack did a great job of explaining why the decision was made and what benefits we could expect from it. He was also very candid about the reception these announcements got from the press, public and developer community. Personally, I think if Apple can deliver what it promises, and stick pretty closely to the announced schedule, they will be in a unique position in the industry. Nobody, not even Microsoft with all of its money, has come even close lately to meeting a delivery date. Even the highly touted Windows 95 was very, very late. The ability to count on a scheduled release date and know that certain features will be in that release should make the developer's job easier and help with resource planning. A good deal for all. Most important, though, is that this time, Apple delivers on the promise.
Jack brought three more presentations with him, dealing with New Media, Live Objects, CyberDog and other new technologies, but the questions from the audience prevented him from getting to them. He has promised to return in January to deliver a progress report and the rest of his presentations. So put it on your calendar now: Apple Computer in January. The next update to MacOS (7.6) should be out by then.
And now, the drawing winners for October: From the largesse of Casady & Greene, R.B. Birdsong won a copy of SpellCatcher; Clark Snead won Origami, The Secret Life of Paper; Allen Kent and Mike Briggs took home Conflict Catcher 3; Tom DeMay received a copy of Keep It Simple Spreadsheet; George won a copy of InfoGenie; Clifton Bailey took home Amoeba Arena. Pat Bamwin won Zone Warrior. The Glider Pro CD went to Bob Whitesel. Tom Bouchard received the Macworld Game Hall of Fame CD-ROM. Claris Amazing Animation CD-ROMs went to Dennis Dimick, Stanley Metalitz, Blair Gwaltney, David Essick and Wilmer Whetzel. Olin Bockes took home the Hard Disk Tool Kit Personal Edition and Tom Culbert is enjoying the Civil War Strategy CD for (gasp) Windows. Dave Weikert took home (or to work) the Apple Network Administrators Toolkit. The Little Web Book went to Dale Smith. J Morton got the Authoring in Pagemill book. Bob Hewitt received the Free Stuff From the Internet guide.
Many thanks to Beth Medlin and Lawrence Charters for their help. Three
cheers to the other volunteers who help transport the equipment to and
from the meetings. A thousand thanks to Bonnie Allen and Proxima
Corporation for the loan of the projector each month. It is greatly
appreciated. And of course, thanks to my right hand young man, my son,
David who keeps the faith in a school full of PCs and evangelizes the Mac
at every opportunity. See you next month and don't forget the
Garage Sale Computer Show and Sale, Saturday, December
9th in the NOVA Gymnasium on the opposite side of the lobby.