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Busman's Holiday
I Love A Good Story
by Steve Wood
October 6, 1998

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This column was the first of the Busman's Holiday series. It was prompted by a self-imposed "leave" from my regular column at MacTimes. I did what used to be known as "taking a busman's holiday." Like postmen taking a walk on their day off, some bus drivers used to be known for riding busses on their vacations. I posted this independent column/editorial/rant while on "my leave."

I love a good story...and I found one.

Several years ago, I registered a security program called Prophylaxis Plus. Written by the then 13 year-old Trevden Sherzell and rated 4 mice by MacUser, it provided good security, short of a startup disk invasion, for my LCIII at school. It was just $5, and the name was perfect! (The name didn't show on the startup splash screen...but I knew.) Somewhere along the line, Prophylaxis Plus (76K) appeared to break with a new system, machine, or conflict, and I went on to other security programs when needed. I also lost contact with its author.

Several weeks ago, reader Lee Selvog sent a tip on a shareware by an Eden Sherry. It turns out that in 1994, Eden was putting out his shareware under the "handle" Trevden Sherzell! The better news was that Prophylaxis Plus does still work with system 8 and 8.1. Why it appeared to break, neither Eden nor I know. According to Eden, I wasn't the only one to have the problem. The original version, rereleased in 1997, works just fine on my G3 minitower and System 8.1.

Eden is now a junior at Cornell majoring in Psychology. He has several other sharewares to his credit including a system 8 compatibility revision of Snap-To and his new offering, Scrollability. Eden also says that Prophylaxis Plus, Snap-To, and Scrollability have all been tested and are all compatible with Apple's coming System 8.5.

Eden's web bio says,

"I usually find myself spending altogether too much time in front of my computer. My parents made the hideous mistake of buying me an original 128k Mac when I was five or so, and I've been hopelessly singleminded ever since."

I spent most of the last two weekends putting together the columns "Free Em@iler" and "Conspiracy Theory." Smack dab in the middle of the first of two Sunday efforts, I spotted an update for Graphic Converter. Like Jerry's compulsion to purchase "Catcher in the Rye" in the movie Conspiracy Theory, I seem to have a compulsion to immediately download every new GraphicConverter update I see. I'm rarely disappointed.

I really don't know GraphicConverter's author, Thorsten Lemke, but the man needs to get a life. He produces more quality updates than any other shareware author I know. Each update offers something(s) to justify the version number increase. He must live in front of his monitor.

If you're unfamiliar with GraphicConverter, it will open, convert to or from, most graphic file formats. A recent update added a browser that previews the graphic content in a folder--as viewable sizes. There are many, many features to this shareware which has made it the Mac standard it deserves to be. The funny thing about it is that once you pay the fee, that's it. There have been no fees for updates for added features or when OS changes break the features (rare). He just cranks out another free update, each time with fixes and more features.

As I was finishing up this column, another update appeared, just two weeks after the first.

Going back to gabbing about security, I'm a sucker for programs that support worthy causes. At various times,I have used CompuLoc as my password/security program at school. While vulnerable to shift-key, extensions disabled start-ups, the registration fee goes to the Salt Lake City, Utah, Ronald McDonald House. With the addition of Marc Mennigmann's Shift Key Suite, it's as tight a security as Prophylaxis Plus or any other program short of one of the heavy duty security programs. The great part of CompuLoc is its sounds. If you type in the correct password, you hear Captain Kirk saying, "Welcome Aboard." Darth Vader's voice greets those fatfingered individuals who enter a wrong password with, "Don't fail me again." Mess up the password 4 times, and Porky Pig greets you with, "Th...th...th...that's all folks," before CompuLoc shuts down the computer with an assortment of rude default sounds. You can even add your own sound files. I'd love to give you a direct link to this one, but I can't find any. I suspect that the use of copyrighted sounds may have made things hot for the author(s). But if you're an AOL member, it is still available there.

Speaking of security, you might get a grin from this item from Peter J. Bismuti's Bloom County page.


In the Ten Back-to-School Sharewares column (8/24/98), I listed Brett Helbig's excellent word search creator, Word Find. Since then Word Find has gone to version 1.5, now supporting drag and drop, among other improvements. It's the first update in 3 years! But then, the previous version still worked well. Brett continues to supply Word Find as freeware.

Feedback from "Conspiracy Theory" seems consistently in agreement with reader Joe Maia's and my conjecture. I'd left Joe's name out of the article as my deadline came and went. Those that didn't see it that way basically said forget Emailer! And...I did omit a "fairly successful" email client, Eudora Pro (oops!).

It took me two columns to say what I had to say about the Emailer situation. Ken K. did it with a two-line email:
Bill Gates gave Steve Jobs $150 million for something. Nobody said what or when, but it is a small price to pay to assist in market domination.

Here are some of the other responses from readers.

From Dan Berks, "Surely you're joking..."
Wait a minute... "Conspiracy Theory", a good movie? Are ye daft, man? Drivel it was and mindless drivel at that! Nice article, aside from that gross misstatement. :-)
From Kent D., "You're Right."
I believe you're definitely on to the truth. After reading "Barbarians Led by Bill Gates", such predatory practices on Microsoft's part have to be pretty much standard.

On the personal front, I try to inform as many people as I can about the "real" Microsoft, and the "new" Apple,. However, my real fear is Microsoft will win its case against the DOJ. The only consolation I've been able to take so far is Intel's open embrace of Linux.

From Maury M.,
Uhhhh, the likely reason that eMailer isn't "going on" is almost certainly because of Steve. He likes the mailer that comes with Rhapsody - although it's utter junk - over everything else. Remember his "Eudora sucks" quip back in '97?

The saddest thing about this state of affairs is that they _all_ suck, including eMailer. While it's a fine program in it's own right, and likely the best emailer out there, the interface and operation is just as geeky as all the rest. There was a great mailer on the Mac, it was CyberDog.

Darren Hickey sent this well thought out "mini book:"
As an aside to developing conspiracy theories in all that occurs between Apple and Microsoft (not to say that there are NOT conspiracies, mind you), and instead of rallying the unwashed masses into a frenzy about Apple's plans (or lack thereof) for your "email client of choice", why not spend your time, effort and money ($$) on an application program from a vendor that is committed to providing quality products and feature parity? Could it possibly be that with Apple's track record for deceiving its loyal followers, and our licking at Steve's boots when he finally throw us a definitive answer for their plans (how can we plan for ourselves?), that there is absolutely no compulsion for Apple to change its ways? Remember what happened when we had choice in vendor of MacOS systems? Remember waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the 9600? What happened? PowerComputing and UMAX filled the niche with their PowerTower Pro and S900 respectively. So, Apple chopped them off at the knees, then slowly, methodically diced them into little pieces to be scattered to the winds. Now we have to deal with product shortages, quality issues, and more of the status quo Apple deception as to when (and if) we will receive our much anticipated MacOS system (and perhaps get some of OUR work done).

This is not a cheap shot at Apple...I have been in the business of working with and supporting MacOS systems long enough to have seen the results of Apple's arrogance. When Microsoft does something akin to Apple's moves, the world cries "foul", but when Apple does it, it is taken in stride, for we have NO OTHER CHOICE for MacOS systems (the ones that we NEED to productively do our work). Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place...

My suggestion is this: ditch Claris Emailer, and purchase (that is right, put your money where your mouth is) another company's product (my personal recommendation is Eudora Pro, a quality product with a great deal of support). This will, in its small way (which Apple will undoubtedly ignore) tell Apple that if they will not tell us what they plan to do with their products so that we can plan what we are going to do, we will move our business ($$) to a company that is a little more communicative and pro-customer.

Just my 2¢ worth (ok, probably cost more than that).

It always blows me away when readers such as Darren (above) and Dave M. (below) take the time to send literate responses that probably well outweigh my original column. I really do read and respond to reader responses. I continue to find that the "Macintosh spirit," whatever that is defined to be, is something coming from the users of the OS and certainly not from Apple Computer.
While a Microsoft/Apple agreement to silence Emailer wouldn't surprise me, I also wonder whether MS's current problems could be causing Jobs/Apple to be cautious, independent of any baby-knifing at MS's request.

With the current demise of Mac cloning, ANY direct competition between Apple and the third-party developers could be seen as unfair business practices. Even if one of those competitors is the big monopo-monster itself. It's something that developers have complained about in the past, even.

Email software could be seen as an essential component these days, whether it comes with the computer or is obtained in some other way (or even using a web browser's email interface, if you don't know any better). So Apple needs to ensure that something is always available without seeming to compete unfairly with the third-party email programs. If MS were the only competition (or becomes the only remaining competitor), Apple can pull Emailer out of the mothballs and not worry too much about any anti-trust suits.

Personally I suspect it may be a bit of both--Apple planned to sidebar Emailer but didn't do so until MS "asked" Apple to do so. If it got Apple a little more out of any negotiations than it otherwise would have, then all the better. If someone offers to pay you, or give you something, in return for doing what you would have anyway, why not? Besides, it would be one way to keep the giant in line during all these investigations. :-)

John D. added his insights on Apple dropping technologies:
I think part of it has to do with Apple dropping things before their time. Look how they dropped Cyberdog as it was getting all these awards. Instead of letting it go to a company that could update it they let it just die. Now that same company that wanted to take it over has married Cyberdog with Internet Explorer. By using both libraries they are able to do this. Maybe some one will do some thing similar with Emailer and let it live on. I find it a shame that Apple takes off running with things and just as those of use like the products they just drop it. If they are going to drop some thing let the code go so others can update the product to be more competitive with other packages out there. I only hope that Apple will see the light that a lot of us out there love things from Apple and want to see it continue.

The Public Access Software petition drive closed to signatures last Friday. Totals are posted on their site, with the petition going to Apple yesterday or today. I suspect this is the last we will hear of Emailer.

What the heck does "on leave" mean? (Updated 10/25/98)

I was hired at the beginning of August, 1998, to write a paid weekly column for MacTimes. I wrote the columns, submitted them on time, and they were published. I didn't get paid.

So...I went "on leave" until things were resolved.They were, and I'm back cranking out my weekly column for MacTimes.

SeniorsI realize this week's offering doesn't sound or look much like my regular offerings. But since my publisher has given me a golden opportunity to "step out," I decided to do it my way. Notice that the default type size similar to 14 point. It's actually 12 point Verdana, a large Microsoft font. Webmasters are universally youngsters with fairly good eyes. They are far too wise to listen to we mere readers who would like to be able to browse and read without squinting, or copying the text and modifying it to a larger size, or changing our browser's default size. I suspect that many commercial websites lose repeat business by the silliness of using a standard 12 point Times typeface.

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updated and reposted to the new MATH DITTOS 2 site 6/18/2000
©1998 Steven L. Wood