Fact Controlled
MATH
for Special Learners

Busman's Holiday
Orbs, Storage, and a Legacy CD
bySteve Wood
June 30, 1999

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When I was writing a weekly column for MacTimes, I often found it necessary to follow up with reader comments and, gulp, corrections. In doing an independent column, I really didn't think I'd be doing that, but the volume of email from the columns this month has been large and illuminating. It's also a good way to wind down the month as July promises to be the "silly season" as columnists try to anticipate what will emerge from MacWorld Expo and later recap the conference. (You can also read the preceding sentence as, "He ran out of anything worthwhile to say." :-).

Comments on The End is Near: Backup Now! (6-25-99)

Several folks wrote to tell me of the new Castlewood Systems 2.2GB Orb Drive. The Mac version will retail at around $199.95. A ClubMac sales representative said he does not expect delivery of any units from Castlewood before "the middle of July." Thanks to Tom McKenna of The G3 All-in-one Stop Shop, and David SPOOF Hemenway for putting me onto the Orb (Hmmm...that last sentence almost sounds like something that would hurt!).

Rod Paine, of ASTEC Company, Inc., was kind enough to send along some of his figures on cost of storage per megabyte. If you didn't get the drift from the column that I wanted a DAT drive for home use, you probably will see why I agree with Rod that DAT drives are great for large backups.

Rod used list prices below and does not figure in the cost of the hardware for backup, but I think you can see his point. I've added the Orb Drive and 2GB Jaz figures at the bottom of the table. I'm also not sure of the true formatted capacity of the Orb.

Media
Cost
Capacity (MB)
Cost Per Megabyte
Cost is how much more than DAT?
         

125m 4mm DA

$22.95

24,576

$0.00093

--

650MB CD ROM

2.35

650

0.00360

3.9 times

5.2GB R/W CD

83.00

4813

0.01700

18.3 times

1GB Jaz

99.00

1000

0.09900

106.5 times

120MB Imation

17.95

110

0.16300

175.3 times

100MB Zip

17.95

94

0.19100

205.4 times

2.2GB Orb

29.95

2200

0.01361

14.6 times

2GB Jaz

124.95

2000

0.06247

67.2 times

 

While it definitely doesn't give the level of protection of an off-site backup, many readers suggested an additional hard drive, internal or external, as an increasingly cost-effective method of backing up. While the figures below don't look terribly impressive, there are a lot of closeouts of large drives going on that may yield some real bargains. But...what about that massive lightning strike or fire that takes out... I don't want to think about that!

4.5GB IBM UltraStar 9ES

219.00

4550

0.04813

51.8 times

Quantum 8.4GB Stratus SE

279.00

8455

0.03299

35.5 times

 

Thanks to Steven R. Decker and David L. Kreinick for keeping me on my toes on that one.

David Theil found a Maxtor 13GB EIDE drive for $160. I think that deal has expired but I did find an old Deal-Mac posting for $179. While comparing SCSI devices with EIDE isn't quite fair, it is all storage.

Maxtor DiamondMax 13.0GB

179.00

13020

0.01375

14.8 times

 

With a rebate, you might even do better than the example above, but the DAT drive still comes out a winner, albeit a verrrry slow one.

Comments on Disappearing Software (6-18-99)

This column produced a small deluge of reader feedback. The thread of most of the suggestions was to seek out older shareware disk and/or CD collections produced by AMUG, Nautilus, NHSMUG, SUMEX-AIM, Info-Mac, Pacific HiTech, Educorp, Quantum Leap, and others. Thanks to Mark O'Brien, Steve Johgart, Seth Lewin, and Mike Ackerman.

One brave reader with the necessary resources has stepped forward and is actively exploring the possibility of a vintage software site. To my knowledge, no major sponsors have jumped in as yet.

Dave Ottalini of Washington Apple Pi Mac Users Group offered a low-cost solution for those seeking older software titles:

WAP has a huge Mac (Apple II and /// also) library with many free/shareware files that will work on older machines. Cost - even for nonmembers - is minimal.

 

Additional information is available for the Pi Fillings CD-ROM Version 5.0 and Pi Fillings Goes To School. You may even find a familiar shareware title in the table of contents (It's MATH DITTOS 2, Dave:-).

I also heard from Beth Medlin of WAP with the good news that the Washington Apple Pi Users Group has a "Legacy CD" in their plans for the future. Beth wrote in part:

We don't expect to begin the laying out of the Legacy CD until the new Goes to School CD is completed in September. It is my understanding that the guys will be laying out the Legacy CD in September and October. In other words I would hate for people to think that they can get this CD right away and be disappointed.

 

Beth welcomes your comments and suggestions for the CD at office@wap.org.

If you're looking for a copy of either Aldus PageMaker 2.5 or Freehand 4.0, you might contact Ryan Mumm. He describes himself as "a part time 'Antique Software' collector."

Interestingly, a number of readers thought the current situation is just fine with various vintage links, including mine, all over the place. They myopically saw no need for a centralized true archive for the preservation of Mac software. Go figure! 

Comments on Trends in Shareware (6-14-99)

Paul Foster expressed some sentiments I share concerning Mac shareware and freeware:

I have always found it strange that authors are willing to continually let you have a new version, even if it is years after the original purchase. I don't know if it is just a Mac thing, or an attempt to ensure that there is always good quality, non-Microsoft software available.

 

Another writer took a harsher approach to my words:

One thing that you didn't touch on in "Shareware Trends" is that the user often feels entitled to endless updates/upgrades after paying a measly $10-20 for whatever program it is.

On the other hand these same people plop down hundreds of dollars for incremental upgrades to Photoshop, Illustrator, Quark, and the slew of Microsoft products.

On top of it all Shareware users typically expect the program/software to perform flawlessly and have you (the author, which they can contact directly unlike the CEO or even the lead programmer of say, Microsoft) at their beck and call 24/7 and possibly in multiple languages (heaven forbid you don't speak a local dialect of Portuguese!).

Pricing is very hard to do on Shareware from the author's standpoint. Should you charge more than $20? Will people pay if its over $10 thinking its too high or under $20 thinking if its so cheap it must not be any good?

Will they endlessly send emails saying "If program Y only had X feature, I'd pay for it" or my personal favorite "I am handicapped/disabled/a student and cannot afford to pay $10 one time, can you send me a registration code anyway?" when these people have dual phone lines or cable modems and $3000 computer setups.

 I have bills to pay just like any other company. I had to pay for CodeWarrior before I could use it, I did get a good price on it though at around $350. I have to pay for the web hosting, I have to pay for media if I send out disks and a ton of printing supplies and postage/shipping.

Charging for my software is how I pay these bills, and if I am really lucky, maybe I can upgrade a computer once or twice to keep it running so I can implement "X feature" so people will pay the $10 one time fee.

 

The writer is the head of one of the "shareware companies" with upgrade practices such as the ones I criticized by name. He's entitled to his opinion. I've occasionally felt the same emotions as he expressed where my sharewares are concerned. I've also witnessed the same writer leading the charge for the general good of the Mac platform, with little or nothing to gain personally for his actions, other than the enduring ire of Apple Computer. But as I wrote to him, "I really admire those (shareware authors) that have not had to require additional payments."

Comments on Something to Remember which first appeared on Dan Knight's MacInSchool site (6-22-99):

The following was sent to me by a fellow educator. I'm sure it will sound like exaggeration to some of you, but stuff like this does happen sometimes in our schools. Attitudes of "Just so it looks good to the patrons" prevail among some administrators and school board members.

I was the "computer" person at my public school for several years before I left to join the education department of a small college. In the college someone decided to put the first lab of Apple]['s in our department with a local area network, and I inherited it. What an interesting thing. Right outside our upstairs window were telephone lines dangling from building to building that linked us to our wide area network. This made a great target for electrical storms. They always zapped the network boards and put the network down so often that I really learned how to patch things up, test boards by the process of elimination, and rewire the network. My assistant, Carol, and I usually had to take it apart and put it together at least once or twice a month. Those old monitors with the plug-in cables would be shoved against the wall until the connections would break or were damaged, so you had a really weird flickering off and on effect, depending on how hard the printer was shaking the table.

Recently I was observing in a second grade class with those same old computers and monitors and that same old problem. The teacher didn't know what was wrong and would give it a slap from time to time which sometimes worked, but mostly not. You know, the old kick it into action reaction. The kids were getting frustrated, and I said, "Let me take a look." Same old loose connection problem. I squeezed it together and the kids loved me...at least for 2 minutes. This shows that disaster work experience will always come in handy if you wait long enough.

Everything I have learned about computers was learned from the school of "discover for yourself because there's no one to help you." When I was in the public school, we got hold of 12 Commodore 64 machines. Hot dog! We had a lab. I made tables by laying boards across some students desks and we were in business. One computer we reserved to send to all the different classrooms. We had about 900 kids at that time in the school and only 12 computers. One day a kid came running into my office. "Come quick!" he said. "The computer is swarming." I went, and he was right. It was swarming.

I just loved it when I managed to figure out how to solve little problems like this and worked my magic and was the "fixer." The kids fixed me too sometimes. One thing about those Commodores. They had a cartridge dock on the right side, and naturally, the kids just had to put their hands there. It was very exciting when they put a metal object in there and shorted out the keyboard.

When we finally got the go ahead to build a new lab, we were going to have outlets where we needed them. The construction crew poured a solid concrete floor and failed to lay the conduit. Guess who got to saw up the floor. They paid me back by putting wall outlets on the floor. I complained. Funny looks came my way until the day a kid put the metal leg of their chair in one. Hot stuff. Sparks were flying and it got very exciting. This attracted the attention of an administrator who said, "Maybe we need floor outlets with covers."

"Great idea," I said.

In college it is really the same--a very old building complete with one 2-prong outlet in each office, whether you need it or not. Under my desk is a Christmas tree of things plugged into that sucker. There's no surge protection. I can't move anything, because if I do, my 3-prong adapter will come loose and everything will go down. It is like riding a wild horse to work at that desk wondering what might happen under your feet. My theory is that perhaps it will catch on fire and burn down. Maybe we will get a new building with real electrical outlets. Very unlikely.

This is not to say that we aren't making progress. We are--just not under my desk. When they decided to have a new lab in our department, they asked a colleague and me to design it. Wow! How exciting! After months of careful research and work (even a little drafting), we presented our ideas. It was totally rejected, so I said, "Maybe it's time for me not to be the computer person anymore." Now I never go into the lab to find out why the scanner doesn't scan or help a student who has lost their document. I never lay cable or rewire. I have taken up watercolor painting instead. I teach my classes, do my share of complaining, and generally be what all my colleagues were when I was the computer person. It is so cool to be the former computer person, as I relax on weekends instead of spending it rewiring the network. "LET THEM EAT CAKE," I yelled over the ramparts, as I stuck my artbox and sketch pad under my arm for a little "plein aire" experience.

This article is dedicated to all the kids who helped me learn and all the administrators who said, "Yes, go ahead," even when they didn't know what I was doing. It was great fun..but I am glad it's over.

Dr. Nedra C. Sears
New World Software
Ada, Oklahoma

 

I think that's all the fun I'm allowed to have for the month of June. With the next column we'll be into July where any Mac columnist worth his salt offers his or her MacWorld predictions and interpretations. I'll start early so you can say that you heard it here first. I predict Steve Jobs will announce at MacWorld that Pirates of Silicon Valley was a wonderful movie. He will also reinstate the Artemis line, CyberDog, and Emailer. Oops, sorry! Just wanted to see if you were still awake.

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Reposted to the new MATH DITTOS 2 site 6/25/2000
©1999 Steven L. Wood