Busman's Holiday
Beware: MacIdiot at Work
by Steve Wood
June 29, 2001





I had decided just this week to put the old Busman's Holiday series title to rest. It wasn't accurate anymore, since I no longer write for any established site. When writing for one paid site, I humbly used the email username of "MacSteve." Of course, the column I was then writing was entitled "That other Steve..." While that site and the email moniker are long gone, a name change to MacIdiot may be in order.

I was following my usual morning routine of searching for any pertinent updates for my new Educators' News site. I was on my third cup of coffee, had a load in the washer, was filling the kitchen sink with soapy water to do dishes, and was trying to photograph some baby birds in a nest on my front porch by the time I felt I'd covered the bases, and it was time to call it quits for the morning.

I'd been to Bill, Dan, Bryan, and Ric's sites to search for information without much luck. Ric still seems to be the only one posting iBook reports that give both the good and the bad about the new iBook 2001. I even found one other site posting that began, "Apple's recently released, retrofitted, iBook is AWESOME. I am hard pressed, as an owner of the previous incarnation, to find any faults with it. While I've yet to use one in person..." Maybe the demo model I reviewed just had some problems peculiar to it, but at least I used it before singing its praises or panning it. If Apple wants to send me another one, I'll give it another try.

The Macintosh News Network came up dry but was its usual enjoyable read. I'd even checked the corporate site that never gives me a link. I was really scrounging for news as it's been a very slow month for education news and even worse for educational shareware and freeware for the Mac. I noted as much in the original daily update for my site and managed to find three or four educationally relevant editorials upon which I could sagely comment and link.

It was getting to be time to quit since I had to finish painting one last side of the garage. Three years ago, I'd painted just the side visible from the house. That suited me just fine, but others seemed to find that somewhat unusual. I also needed to call a parent and carefully schedule a vital annual case review to conflict with my accompanying my wife on an upcoming trip to the in-laws. What was that date we were supposed to go?

anAtlasLike a little kid pleading for just one more story at bedtime, I tried Version Tracker one last time and found I'd missed an update to the dandy Mac freeware application anAtlas. Considering that I'd just uploaded a posting that described my condition as an addiction to Mac shareware and freeware, I was in hog heaven. I immediately began a download, only to have it twice terminate prematurely. Undaunted, I went to the Harry Hooie Creations site and found an alternate download link (4.1 MB). Although it took 19 minutes to download, I entertained myself by reading an email from fellow educator and vintage Mac collector Scott Schuyler and visiting his entertaining home page.

TerraServer USGS imageWhen anAtlas decompressed and I fired it up, I wasn't disappointed. I quickly located and mapped our town. I then began to play with it and linked to the local weather forecast. Really getting into the features, I then tried the Imagery via TerraServer pulldown menu. There was Our HouseSullivan, Indiana, right before my eyes. I moved a bit and began to zero in on my house. I was totally lost to the surrounding world at that point. Closer and closer I zoomed in to my house and grounds, practically expecting to eventually see a shot of me falling off a ladder or some such thing. With the magnification maxed, I downloaded the nine tiles that made up the photo, which made a delightful puzzle to reassemble with GraphicConverter.

Say what you will about Microsoft, the TerraServer is one cool page. It's just one of the many items anAtlas accesses. The anAtlas Read Me notes:

anAtlas is currently free, although Harry Hooie encourages users to register anAtlas for US $10 to encourage continued development.

Registered users are entitled to future versions and product support. It is likely that future versions of anAtlas will not be free - but, registered users of anAtlas will always be entitled to ownership of all versions of anAtlas!

At $10 a pop, registration sounded like a good deal to me. Keep those updates coming, Harry!

Having blown my lunch money for the week, I headed for the kitchen for another cup of coffee. Oh, yeah, "filling the kitchen sink with soapy water..." 

Odd thoughts while shaving between paragraphs:

I won't go on with the full story of the drain under the sink I'd "fixed" a year ago breaking. Or how I used every towel in the house trying to sop up the mess before I remembered that I own a wet vac. Needless to say, I'll be visiting my in-laws rather than doing that conference. And the garage still stands at only three sides painted. And no, it's not a triangular building.

I've embarrassed myself enough for one day.

Why post it? Ah, it's the end of the month, and I'm within a couple of thousand hits of my all-time high. That high point came mostly from the thousands of readers last month who read Never mind. Apple Education probably is dead. Most also were kind enough to send me thousand word critiques questioning my facts, objectivity, and parentage. Most thought that I already should be considered an idiot or Mac heretic. I thought it would be nice this month to hit a high without a nasty rant.

I'll dodge the blame, though, and pin it on web buddy Joe Taylor, who once wrote that he most enjoyed the columns where I described my mistakes. So after, really while, cleaning up the kitchen, drying out Annie's cookbooks, drying out the basement, and washing the towels, I put this column together.

Honey, the dishes still aren't done. It's Joe's fault.

Update (7/2/2002)

I forgot to tack this onto the column last May when I wrote it on an Educators' News posting.

"During the first few weeks of school last fall when the Metropolitan School District of Backwash, Indiana, was still pretending federal and state special education laws didn't apply to them (meaning they hadn't provided enough staff to fulfill the bare minimum IEP requirements and were daily risking a massive "denial of services" lawsuit), I had to come up with some pretty creative activities to occupy the 20+ special learners in my classroom while I worked with small groups in reading. AnAtlas provided one of those activities. I had the kids start in AnAtlas, first finding their hometown. (You mean Backwash, Indiana, doesn't show up in your atlas or zip code guide?) They then used AnAtlas to link to a USGS aerial photograph of their area via the Microsoft Terra Server. From there, most were able to figure out enough landmarks to navigate to their to their house. We printed up the aerial photographic close-up of each child's house."

It turned out to be a really cool activity. Several of my students regularly returned to anAtlas, both on and off-line, to find places. I'm also happy to see that a Carbon version is available now and that the 2.0 revision is at this writing in beta (3.9 MB).

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©2001 Steven L. Wood