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Busman's Holiday
Expo Musings
by Steve Wood
July 28, 1999



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While the Mac universe spent last week in ecstasy over new product offerings from MacWorld Expo '99 in New York, I took a week off from writing to finish some necessary household repairs. Maybe painting and concrete work make me grumpy, but I was initially underwhelmed by Apple's new offerings at MacWorld. After a week of looking at what there was, now I'm not so sure.

iBook or fish tank?The big news of the Expo was the iBook, Apple's new low-cost laptop. Apparently targeted at the higher ed market, the iBook was a bit of a surprise to me. I'd expected something more along the line and pricing of the eMate. The $1599 ($1549 K-12 individuals, $1499 educational institutions) laptop is supposed to ship in September. The initial buzz from the press seems mostly positive. Glowing evaluations by Time, Don Crabb and David Pogue have been posted. John Dvorak's lone rip of what he thinks "looks like a makeup case" hints at what may be its biggest drawback. The appearance may put off all but the Macintosh faithful. (I really thought one of the ad photos looked more like a fish tank or bread machine!)

I started writing this week's column a week ago as my Mac attempted to download and play first the Real, and later the QuickTime streaming version of Steve Jobs's keynote speech at Macworld Expo '99 in New York. Like many others using a standard dial-up modem connection, I was frustrated by frequent buffering and disconnects while trying to view the speech in either format. I finally was able to hear the speech several days later at an off-peak time. For those who may be having similar problems, I'd suggest reconfiguring QuickTime's preferences for a 28.8 modem instead of the 56K modem (even if you have such a modem). Setting up the memory of the QuickTime player also seems to help.

Interestingly, much of the first of the keynote speech dealt with QuickTime and QuickTime TV. While Apple definitely has a much improved QuickTime with version 4 and the new "codecs" mentioned by Mr. Jobs, bandwidth problems still limit its usefulness. When I later tried some of the sites that Worldwide Marketing VP Phil Schiller demoed, my initial impression of QuickTime TV was only confirmed. Phil and Steve's connection is obviously considerably better than mine as Weird Al seemed to have the hiccups...and that was the best of the lot. Tom McKenna of The G3 All-in-one Stop Shop may have expressed the current usefulness of QuickTime streaming for many of us when he said, "...this really seems like smoke and mirrors."

From viewing the few snatches of the live webcast that came through ungarbled, I heard Mr. Jobs again use the words "Sherlock" and "revolutionary" in the same sentence. I truly hope he was speaking of some computer hacker named Sherlock with evil plans to overthrow something-or-other, as Sherlock in the form described sounded anything but revolutionary. While the shopping features and LDAP email capabilities mentioned are new to Sherlock, parts or all of these features are already available elsewhere. The redesign of Sherlock also sounds as if Apple has added the functionality of Cassidy & Greene's Baker Street Assistant (172K), formerly Sherlock Assistant, to OS 9. Sherlock Assistant already allows grouping of search sites into convenient modules.

OS 9 DesktopOS X DesktopWhile definitely not revolutionary, Sherlock 2 appears to be a nice maturing of a good utility. It may be unfortunate that Jobs and Phil Schiller chose to demo Sherlock 2, as the anticipated feature list posted by AppleInsider for the coming OS 9 (Sonata) upgrade looks quite interesting. Just a peek at its alleged desktop has to make you grin! And since we're peeking at possible OS desktops, maybe this view of an OS X desktop may turn that grin into a beaming smile.

Tucked into the end of the software hoopla was a demo of IBM's ViaVoice. The absence of this product or a similar product on the Mac platform has been a continuing disappointment for many Mac users. For the student who is effectively learning to read and can communicate verbally, but simply cannot write well, a product like ViaVoice has tremendous learning potential.

When I sat down to write this piece, I kept leaving it alone as it felt like a rant or a rip. But after looking and listening for a week, I've gotten QuickTime TV to work almost to acceptable levels...in the wee hours of the morning. The iBook sounds cool. I'm not going to log onto the Apple Store tonight and buy one. But then, I'm saving my pennies for a G4 ZIF-socket upgrade for my beige G3 minitower :-).

Two weeks ago the good folks at FileMaker, Inc. released a Y2K update for FileMaker Pro that seemed to work fine with my databases. It now turns out there were some bugs in it, and users should update to FileMaker Pro 4.1v3 (1247K). Unfortunately, the updater can't reverse the previous fix and users will need to remove FileMaker Pro 4.1v2 completely before reinstalling the base FileMaker Pro 4.1 and the new update.

Speaking of FileMaker, I also heard back from a previous contact there concerning their future plans, or lack thereof, for Claris Home Page. A previous similar email while I was still a member of the FileMaker Solutions Alliance produced the following result:

>Is there anything going on with development on a new version of Home Page?
Not currently, but I don't think we have made a decision one way or the other yet. Most of our quality time is focused on making FileMaker better for our customers and future customers.

The reply to the current request took just a day, but was lacking in any encouragement for we Home Page users:

Hi Steve,
>I'm a former member of CSA/FSA and now do an independent column.
>I'm working on a piece about html editors and wondered if there are any
>plans you can pass along--publicly or as anonymous background--on future
>plans for Home Page.
Sorry, I am unable to publicly or as anonymously make any comment... other than we're still selling it. Although, I have forwarded your email to our PR department to possibly help you with the answer.

I've not heard anything from FileMaker PR and really don't expect any word. Considering a recent Mack the Knife posting that said release of FileMaker Pro 5 has been pushed back until at least next year, I suspect the database wizards at FileMaker have their hands full already and may be more than willing to let Home Page (and its many paid users) rot on the vine. That's a shame.

I published the column It's a Macintosh Enigma on Friday, July 16, 1999. Unfortunately for Ryno Software, their web host had a server power failure Saturday, July 17, 1999, that didn't get corrected until the following Monday evening! If you tried their site or tried to download Enigma for Macintosh (667K), you had to be disappointed. But RynoSoft is back online with a home page for Enigma, and the download link is good once again. Bye bye telephone spammers!

ClarisWorks lipsAppleWorks speech buttonI'd listed the return of speech as one of the things I wanted to see happen for AppleWorks in the column Christmas in July. Duh! It was never missing. Apple just changed the button from the ClarisWorks lips to a more generic button. I liked the lips better!

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