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Steve Wood's
View from the Classroom

This Week's "Non-Column"
October 15, 1999



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This week's edition of A View from the Classroom will be appearing right here on MacInSchool sometime...next week! While I'd like to emulate some of my students and shift responsibility somewhere else, i.e., "But Dan, the dog ate my homework (column)," I've got to fess up and say it just didn't happen this week.

I had good intentions and some great ideas. Twenty-two folders containing columns in various stages of completion populate my "Columns in Progress" folder. Another twenty-four folders hold single or multiple ideas, research, false starts, rumors, and so on in the "Column Ideas" folder. With all that stuff sitting around, you'd think I'd have something worthwhile to say!

Alas, none of the items were worthy of publication this week. The original plan was to run a column with the tentative title of "Lab Fun." Part of the problem this week was that redoing all of the lab's computers has turned from an interesting diversion into something considerably less than fun. The LC5200's that were supposed to have 24-32 MB of RAM each and 1.2 gig drives turned out to have 12-16 MB of RAM and 500 MB drives! Several had faulty CD-ROM drives, and the bootable lab installer CD's we burnt wouldn't (boot) in the good drives. After a number of "kinetic starts" (thanks to Steve Goodwin for that one:-) and other nonstandard installation techniques, we finally got enough 5200's online to pacify those brave souls who supervise our kindergarten through second graders in the lab.

Having had all the "fun" we could stand with the 5200's, the school's technology coordinator and I turned our attention to the original lab PowerMac 6100's. These 60 MHz screamers of a bygone day turned out to be in their stock configuration of 8 MB RAM soldered to the motherboard and a 250 MB hard drive. A few had received 160 MB drives (I wonder who nailed the 250's?), while others contained drive sarcophagi (or sarcophaguses, according to my American Heritage Dictionary) that conceivably might have held functioning platters at some point in history. In a testimony to the 6100's durability, these machines have survived a daily pummeling each schoolday for nearly 5 years. As a result, CD-ROM doors are mostly manual open and close, multiple attempts at booting are required for many, and the mice...nah, you don't even want to know. While I don't want to offend you, I suspect some extreme cannibalistic behavior may emerge in the days to come.

Remembering that this is a non-column about the article that isn't...wasn't..., my backup great column idea for the week was to run a "First Look" piece on Mac OS 9. In case you haven't heard as yet, the upgrade that is scheduled to be available on retailers' shelves October 23, is surprisingly reaching some who pre-ordered (Does that mean we ordered before we ordered?) through the Apple Store for Education for K-12 Individuals. Web buddy Brian Chaffin posted a piece on MacObserver that said despite Apple's Press Release date of October 23 availability for the upgrade, pre-orders were already being shipped. Then Brian recanted his evil words (Wonder if he got a nasty note from Apple?) and posted a retraction. Then Mac OS Rumors said it was so! The update was indeed shipping.

Jon Bonner of MacSoldiers was the first I saw to review the new OS release. Tom McKenna of the always excellent G3 All-in-one Stop Shop followed a couple of days later. Even though I knew I'd been scooped, I figured that since I'd ordered the same day as Jon and Tom, my copies of OS 9 had to arrive this week and I could still crank out 1500 words about it. Even though I worried our school secretaries to death checking for the shipment, the package...and the column...didn't make it.

Always a careful chap, I had a piece tucked away about our school's technology coordinator, otherwise known in some circles as the "Evil NT techie." While a friend and a good foil for my pro-Mac tendencies, he always has a few stinging barbs for me about Apple and the Mac OS that also get a rise out of my readers. His best effor to date was, ""I still can't believe that Apple still hasn't fixed the multiple network connections. What a stupid company they can be sometimes." Several months ago, he walked into my classroom and said, "You cut me off at the knees, stood me back up, and cut me off again!" The reference was to my controversial column, "One Way Apple Loses Educational Market Share." He was grinning as he said it, unlike the Apple rep featured in Losing Educational Market Share: One Apple Rep at a Time who may still not have a clue as to why Apple loses educational customers. But with each of his visits, I'd have a quote that was good for 20-30 flames that insured that my then publisher knew folks were coming to his site to read my stuff:-).

The backup, backup article was wanting only a "capper" to really set off the "Apple can do no wrong" crowd into a frenzy of flames when I lucked into just what I needed. Last week, ZDNet's Jesse Berst shook up a number of folks with his "Why Jesse Wants an iMac" column. Since the nice folks at ZDNet make it so easy to share a column with a friend, I just had to type in the techie's email address. I think I really wound him up on this one, because I usually get a semi-hash word or a one or two-line email zinger in response to these things. This time he cranked out about 800 words (that's half a column right there) of Macintosh Faithful incendiary material! I loved every word of it. He also didn't speak to me for a day...but he did drop off the two 120 mm DAT tapes I needed when I wasn't at my desk.

Seizing the opportunity, I emailed him asking if I could quote him and got an affirmative reply, before receiving a second, somewhat panicked email saying "no email addresses or phone numbers!" He doesn't know I'd never reveal my source. Then I'd have to compete with other writers seeking outrageous (and occasionally all too accurate) quotes for my columns.

Knowing I had my column locked up, I forwarded his piece home from school on one of my accounts. I neglected a carbon copy to the backup account and didn't even copy it to a zip. Arrrrh. It's 11:24 P.M., I'm on deadline, and does anyone out there know where my email has gone? Whether the result of increasingly poor email service from ISP's, or from a case of fat fingers when punching in the email address, my readers will have to breathlessly wait a week or so to hear the techie's outrageous words about Apple, Microsoft, and computer users in general. Or, if you'd prefer, you can just whip out those flames now. (Actually, my column email runs about 95% positive these days. Even when I was cranking out some incredibly provocative material, such as the rip, "OS 8.5: Time for Apple to Apologize," reader responses ran no worse than 50-50!)

At any rate, Dan (Knight) has 1300 words of birdcage liner (if we were a print publication) and I'm going to take the cash and run.

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©1999 Steven L. Wood

reposted 5/12/2000