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Busman's Holiday
Christmas in July
by Steve Wood
July 9, 1999



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Around central Indiana one of our regional appliance stores (who once made me a really great deal on a Mac) has a Christmas in July sale. While I gave some tongue in cheek suggestions of what was to come at MacWorld Expo in last week's column, I can and regularly do find easier ways to make a fool of myself without getting into the business of trying to read Steve Jobs or Apple Computer's corporate mind. My crystal ball seems permanently out of service where they're concerned. Instead, in the "spirit of the season" of that appliance chain, I'd like to offer my Christmas in July wish list for MacWorld Expo announcements I'd like to see. Really, I'm pretty patient. I'd be happy for any and all of the following suggestions to occur during the next two quarters! While I realize much of the current speculation surrounding the event centers on the expected P1, a possible Apple sponsored ISP, and handhelds, my wish list is a bit more general.

First and foremost on the list would be for Apple to continue to produce excellent hardware and software. Without an Apple, whether independent as Bryan Chaffin describes, or a subsidiary of a friendly larger enterprise as reasoned by Don Crabb or Wes George, we Mac folks could find ourselves in the same boat as Amiga users. (BTW: Will Gateway 2000 ever update the Amiga OS for current machines?)

Releasing a rock solid Mac OS X client version will help many of us who must work on both platforms. We're already laying in massive supplies of headache remedies in anticipation of installing and learning Windows 2000. We Mac users don't want much, just incredible speed and stability, continued unparalleled ease of use, backward compatibility for our legacy apps, and all on time with a minuscule price!

One of the best ways to insure better stability and general acceptance (think "large volume sales") of the new OS is an adequate beta test sample. Now I know this is a radical suggestion, but why not announce at MacWorld that the OS X client will have a public beta? It could be time-limited to protect future sales. It would insure a massive group of testers on a variety of compatible (and sometimes hacked) Macs. And...it would be an incredible PR move worthy of the PR master himself, Mr. Jobs!

With the imminent release of Sonata (Mac OS 8.7), I hope Apple will follow up on its great move of posting System 7.5.3 as a free download with a similar posting of System 7.6.1. I've made similar suggestions before and won't reiterate the whole story here. But establishing a policy, stated or unstated, of releasing older paid upgrades for free download as new paid upgrades are released will only strengthen the Mac platform. Machines that can use 7.6.1 and have not been so upgraded will simply work better, giving a better impression of the Mac platform and OS.

My third wish is one that appears to be close to fulfillment. Apple continues to update and improve its AppleWorks web pages. Last December Steve Jobs said, "AppleWorks is getting a sustained investment. You're gonna be very happy with future releases of AppleWorks." There are even suggestions of a new version in initial development that may include an integrated email client along the lines of Em@iler. Maybe they'll even return the Speech function to AppleWorks. Lately, nobody at Apple seems to be talking, but such an upgrade would certainly be an instant hot seller for Apple.

Finally, as an educator, I'm still looking for the successor to the incredible G3 All-in-one Mac (Artemis). I've frequently written about the "molar," as it's affectionately known by its supporters, and would hope that the off and on rumors of a special iMac for business and/or education will come to pass. The rumors have included a larger monitor (16" or 17"), at least one PCI slot, an upgradeable chip, the return of the infrared port, and an internal SuperDisk. Tom McKenna's G3 All-in-one Stop Shop often links to eBay All-in-ones and retailers with refurbs. While I've sworn off any further Apple refurbs after a bad experience, the All-in-one seems not to have seriously depreciated in price. Note the recent eBay prices (1, 2, & 3). That may just be the mark of their rarity, but it also could indicate a strong consumer desire for an all-in-one with the features and muscle of the Blue & White Macs. Maybe it's time for Apple to issue an iMac Pro.

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I noticed this week that Susan Howerter is back at MyMac Online after a serious illness. Susan and I used to be the senior citizen writers at the MacTimes News Network. (I'll let you guess which one of us is the elder...chuckle...snicker.) It's good to read her stuff again.

Continuing with this week's column theme, Susan's excellent book, The Stocking Stuffer Steve Book, based on her My Mac Churns and MacTimes columns, is available at MacBookshop as a Christmas in July special. It's a month-by-month look at one of the most dramatic years in Apple's history. Illustrated by Susan's daughter Meg, it's the perfect Christmas gift for your Mac friends, or, as Susan says, "Put it in the employee gift exchange. This works especially well if all your co-workers are Windows bigots." :-) (That's a big grin.) I gave one of my copies to our school's NT techie :-). (Sneaky little grin.)

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