M a c G u i d e

The SuperSource

February 2002

Mac Guide

The original 1984 Macintosh introduced the world to the advantages of a graphic user interface over DOS command line interaction with the computer. The early Macs were also attractively designed and modest in their use of deskspace, with many capabilities built in-ports for printer and modem, easy networking, three-inch encased 400k floppy disks.

Apple has often created easily operated, powerful computers, with style. The original iMac established bright multi-colors as fashionable industrial design in many industries. The Mac G4 Cube is a beautiful, powerful machine, unfortunately slimed by the press because more Cubes were not sold. The new iMac, floating thin display above a compact hemisphereoid, again provides rich functionality at broadly available prices.

Apple has strongly encouraged individual empowerment in education. The State of Maine has decided to equip all its public middle school students with Apple iBook laptops. Also at Apple's January 2002 annual meeting, Apple announced that forty percent of sales at its retail stores are to first-time Mac users. Macintosh users know the productive and personal advantages of the Macintosh platform; additional discriminating computer buyers know an easy-to-use computer that works is better than a difficult computer that too frequently and inexplicably crashes.

Walter Mossberg reviewed the past decade of personal technology (25Oct01, Wall Street Journal B1). "Nearly all of the sex appeal, nearly all of the design innovation, in PCs is back at Apple. Apple has resumed its role as industry trendsetter. In recent years, it was the first to push easy wireless networking, video editing and DVD recording." On the software side, Mossberg laments the "similar consolidation and drying up of innovation and competition," noting one reason is "Microsoft has become a brutal monopolist in the key software categories, squeezing out competitors."

Apple may not capture the whole mass market, but for two decades Apple has led the computerization revolution. Apple continues to bring forefront technology through Apple's human-centered engineering to computer users who enjoy their computer use. For almost two decades, popular press has generally promoted ignorance, bias, and myth against Apple. A recent Apple ad punctures common but false myths ( www.apple.com/myths/ ): Everyone uses Windows; Macs don't work with PCs; The software I need isn't available for Macs; Windows has caught up with the Mac.

There are over fifteen thousand Macintosh computer programs available, including productivity, finance, education, home, design, filmmaking, games, and a host of industry-specific applications. It is true that there are many more below average Windows applications on the market, but discriminating consumers don't want a lot of bad choices, they want sufficient choices that fit their needs.

The Macintosh does not garner massive market share; neither do Tiffany diamonds, America's cup sailors, or high performance automobiles--whether Lexus, BMW, or Mercedes. While the Macintosh is not the most common computing platform, it remains a solid computer operating system for those appreciating ease of use, user control, and appropriately powerful software.

A few years ago, MacGuide launched its "Angels for Apple"™ program, encouraging Macintosh users to also be Apple shareholders. MacGuide continues to recommend Macintosh users proudly purchase some Apple stock. Your stockbroker or other financial oracle can seek to predict how the Dow, S&P, and Fed will move over the next months. MacGuide doesn't predict short term profitability (although that sometimes occurs), but encourages long term support for the companies that make good products for you.

To see what other Macintosh fans are doing with their Macs, more advanced questions and answers, and perspectives on the industry, consider checking into www.macintouch.com , www.themacintoshguy.com , www.yourmaclife.com , www.apple.com , and www.macguide.com . There are many special focus Mac user groups--for example www.maclaw.org for law professionals.

Open Guide

Apple's Macintosh computer continues to be one of the most connectable platforms. Macs readily read other file formats, using AppleWorks and DataViz's MacLinkPlus. Now that the Internet has penetrated virtually everything, HTML, the Internet's core language, and TCP/IP, the Internet's basic protocol, are increasingly a standard for network and desktop programs.

Another extension of the desktop computer is the handheld computer or personal digital assistant (PDA). Pioneered by Palm, Visor's Handspring and Sony's CLIÉ. Smaller than 3x5 inches, a half inch thick, and under 5 ounces, current handhelds come with 2 to 8 MB of RAM (random access memory) and expansion slots for 16 to 64 more MB. Remember the first Macintosh had 128K of RAM, in a diminutive square foot of space.

Handhelds don't replace a desktop or laptop computer, but serve as an extension of the stronger, more flexible computer. The basic functions of a handheld are datebook, address book, task list, and memos. Tightly written code gives virtually instant access to these core functions.

The Palm m505 comes with a small flock of handy additional software programs. Mobile Album's PhotoSuite lets you carry a few family digital photos. DataViz's DocumentsToGo lets you download from your computer to the handheld Word and Excel documents. On the handheld you can view, edit, or create new word processed text and spreadsheets.

AvantGo provides a conduit from the Internet to your handheld. You can download news from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, or USA Today, weather from the Weather Channel, maps from MapQuest, and content from scores of other websites. AOL provides a Palm client for its proprietary email. And if you're caught with spare time, a number of games are available for handhelds, from hangman to the Sims.

There are four ways to input data to a handheld: downloading from a full computer, tapping an onscreen keyboard, using an optional keyboard, or printing letters on the touchscreen. Palm calls its text recognition language Graffiti; the Graffiti letters are easy to write.

One of the advantages of a handheld is its quick Find function, which can locate a word beginning with your printed letters faster than searching half your pockets for the paper notes you used to use pre-PDA.

The built-in battery works for a couple of normal weeks, and recharges when you synchronize your handheld and desktop data. Each data record is timestamped, so that newer handheld data can overwrite the older desktop (or laptop) data and newer desktop data can overwrite the handheld. Not all desktop computer programs synchronize to the handheld, but many can. Address book, Date book, and Tasks accept conventional tab delimited fields, carriage return delimited records.

The Palm handheld and the Macintosh share much in their design philosophy. Both provide elegant style, easy use, and an empowered user.

Win Guide

Windows continues to occupy many corporate and home computers. Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows NT, Windows ME, and the most recent Windows XP. The widespread distribution of Windows may be credited to marketing skill of Microsoft combined with illegal anticompetitive activities, as found by the federal court in Microsoft's current antitrust case.

The Wall Street Journal (25Oct01, B1) and other commentators suggest that Microsoft has designed its desktop software to dominate the Internet, just as it now controls most computer desktops. The Wall Street Journal estimates that a third of current Wintel owner, about 140 million, will have to buy new computers to use Windows XP, since it only runs well on computers sold within the past two years. That's about $2000 more than the $100 software upgrade price. Windows XP does have its merits; it's the first consumer version of Windows "that doesn't crash all the time" (WSJ, id.).

Microsoft's new licensing scheme for Windows XP will require registering a particular computer's hardware with Microsoft. If the licensed computer fails or the user wants to transfer Windows XP to a newer machine, a new license must be obtained from Microsoft. Even if Microsoft decides that you deserve a free license transfer, this additional task negotiation doesn't help when you're under a deadline and in the midst of debugging a downed computer.

Lawrence Lessig warned that corporate interests were controlling the Internet and its default behaviors ( Code And Other Laws Of Cyberspace ). The Internet's communication and buying functions can be designed to protect your individual privacy unless you explicitly grant permission for your personal information to be used in specific ways. Or it can be designed so you have to find out how to tell whom you want your Internet behavior to remain private. The Bill of Rights of the US Constitution limits the government's intrusion into your life; it does not limit what the corporate world can try to do. Those limits on corporate behavior are set by regulations, except in a deregulatory climate, by lawmakers, except when political contributions and private lobbying undercut an open public debate, by the marketplace, except while it is fed deceptive information, by the personal moral standards of top executives, except when temptation grows stronger than collective ethics, etc. The collapse of Enron appears to reinforce the old maxim, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Our nation's founders wisely trusted the balance of openly competing interests, and wisely distrusted private deals. The evils of private monopolies were partly addressed by the US patent laws, making the limited monopoly grant open and patent, in exchange for the inventor revealing to the public the best mode of implementing the invention.

Microsoft also plans to help the Internet user with Microsoft's .net, a central depository with Microsoft, which will store a lot of identifying data about you. You won't have the difficult task of retyping your address, because Microsoft will help you, saving that information and providing it to deemed appropriate others. Credit card numbers, Internet sites you visit, how long you're viewing which sites, what you buy from whom--the possibilities are almost endless to make your life easier by making it easier for Microsoft's computers know more about you--possibilities limited not by technology but by Microsoft's internal sense of what is right and wrong, Microsoft's sense of what help you want, Microsoft's sense of what previously private information you won't fuss too much about becoming accessible to Microsoft and its privately chosen business partners.

Don't worry if Microsoft misjudges your privacy preferences or ignores federal law. As shown by the current antitrust case, it may only take a decade or two of Microsoft's defensive, and some would say delaying, tactics until an enforceable judgment might be rendered. We continue to prefer the Macintosh platform and Apple's friendlier attitude toward its users. If one does occasionally need to run a Windows-only program, Connectix' VirtualPC generally works well for productivity tasks.

PC Guide

Purchasing Computers

Buying a new or upgrade computer is now both easier and harder than a few years ago. Easier because any of the current Macintosh offerings have more than enough speed, power, and features for traditional tasks, such as word processing, database, spreadsheet, email, and the like. Harder because there are still choices to be made among subjective variables.

The desktop iMac line does a lot, with entry models below $1000, and can satisfy most business needs. The desktop G4 line does more, with more expansion slots. iBook laptops provide inexpensive portability and more sleek power than topline desktops of a few years ago. Powerbooks again offer more power at a somewhat higher price. If you don't need the "latest and greatest," the recently supplanted models are often sold at substantial discount after the new models are introduced.

We still recommend thinking of your computer hardware as a three-year consumable, which may last you five years. Remember that the software you use often costs more than the hardware, and that your biggest investment is in your data.

Apple's Airport wireless networking facilitates home or office connections without fishing ethernet cabling through walls. Small firewire portable drives make officesite backup so quick and easy--there's notexcuse to be unprepared. Many Macs now include CD-RW (rewritable) disk drives, providing another easy means for archival backup.

If you're using more graphics or video in your computing, the DVD/CD-RW disk drives easily preserve your websites, scans, digital photos, and digital videos. Apple continues to push the digital ease envelope with its iTunes music, iMovie video editing, iDVD disk burner, and iPhoto photo software. Easy to use continues to be an Apple hallmark.

Save your in-process files while you work, in case a plug gets pulled or your hard drive plummets. Save with whatever frequency of work you are unwilling to redo; we'd suggest 15 minutes as a default. After you complete a long work (that is anything you do not want to redo), save another copy on separate medium: a floppy disk, a Zip drive, a shared hard drive on your network, or a Web storage location, if you trust your work to others. Retrospect readily automates the backup process. Apple provides 5MB of free storage to Mac OS9 users; additional storage can also be purchased.

Hyper Guide

Remember, the Internet has little external regulation. All it takes to create a presence on the Internet is a computer and a connection. Truth may be desirable, but is not a functional requirement of Internet postings. The message reportedly posted by a twenty-year-old bird watcher from Wyoming could actually be from your neighbor, your customer, your daughter, or your boss.

Web services are identified by Uniform Resource Locators, URLs, which may be case sensitive. The first part, the scheme, shows what Internet service or protocol will be used--Hypertext Transport Protocol, http, for the Web. A colon (:) separates the scheme from the scheme-specific part of the URL address. If the URL address is a file, two slashes (//) follow the colon, with the machine name for the file next, followed by the full computer path name to the file or directory. If the URL ends in a slash, it probably points to a file. Like Hansel and Gretel, it's wise to keep track of where you've visited; jot down (or "bookmark") the URLs of places to which you may return. The Internet changes, and Web sites may change addresses or disappear. Advise Élan of changes.

Just as in a multi-flavor ice cream shop, selectivity in favored Internet web sites makes the difference between the glutton and gourmet.

www.google.com . We continue to prefer Google for general web searching. Its clean interface isn't distracted with multiple ads that rarely are of interest, and it often readily pulls in the desired sites. Check out the Advanced Search options, on Google and other search sites, for even better winnowing.

Public Libraries . If you want to become a better Internet searcher, consider a visit to your local public library. Librarians are professional information seekers, and many have been sharpening their Internet skills for years. Bring a search to your library and ask to observe the search process rather than just get the final result. If your library doesn't have such services, and the community has been supporting it with appropriate tax revenues, suggest the library provide such a service. For adults as well as school children.

www.firstgov.com is a helpful portal to many federal and state government websites.

www.apple.com is your gateway to Apple's official Macintosh information, the Apple store (but support your local Macintosh seller, if competent, also), and if you're using System 9 or higher, the free disk storage and services of iTools.

www.themacintoshguy.com supports Macintosh tailored email lists, with foci such as OSX, iTunes, Titanium laptop, Home Mac, MacCube, MacGames, iBook, and MacTips. Consider the digest mode, which accumulates many individual postings into one, generally daily, combined email.

www.macintouch.com . Ric Ford has been providing straight Macintosh commentary since 1994. It's a good source to checkout whether your current computer weirdness is just you or also afflicts others. Cures also often posted.

www.everymac.com for technical specifications for every Mac.

www.palm.com for the Palm handheld pda; www.handango.com for pda software etc.

promo.net/pg/ for Project Gutenberg is making available the world's classic public domain literature. The Project Gutenberg Philosophy is to make information, books and other materials available to the general public in forms a vast majority of the computers, programs, and people can easily read, use, quote, and search. The Project Gutenberg Library has three sections: Light Literature (eg. Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Aesop's Fables), Heavy Literature (eg. the Bible, other religious documents, Shakespeare, Moby Dick, Paradise Lost), and References (eg. Roget's Thesaurus, almanacs, encyclopedia, dictionaries).

www.rosettaproject.org:8080/live . The Rosetta Project is a global collaboration of language specialists and native speakers working to develop a contemporary version of the historic Rosetta Stone. Its goal is a meaningful survey and near permanent archive of 1,000 languages.

www.macguide.com . The SuperSource, of current and some past issues of MacGuide.

Nex Guide

For many Mac users, the next few years bring the bittersweet joys of graduation. Dedicated Macs of three or five or more years may be supplemented or replaced by newer computers with more multimedia capabilities, gigabyte hard disk storage, built-in faster FireWire, USB, and Ethernet ports, and CD-ROM/DVD disk drives. The older Macs will still word process, email, spreadsheet, and database fine. We're just asking more of our computers now, as our workplaces, homes, and communities become more digital and more Internet connected.

Consider the joy your hand-me-down Mac will bring to another. If each member of your household doesn't have their own computer, the joy can begin in your home. If each person at work doesn't have their own computer, it's likely improved efficiency will repay the Macintosh investment in months. If you have no use or if you choose to share your bounty to the wider community, many schools and nonprofit organizations need good computers.

If you transfer your computer to another make sure you protect yourself first. Delete and overwrite any sensitive data. Remember, trashing an icon doesn't remove the data from your hard drive, it only removes the directory listing. The data remains until it is overwritten with new data. Some utilities provide a secure erase function, overwriting trashed files. You can do similar overwriting by duplicating and copying large files, using up much of the empty directory space on your hard drive. If you want more security, trash those extra file icons and do it again in a different file order or with different large files. You could use small files, but it takes a lot longer. Trash the extra files before you transfer the computer; give the new user more space and less curiosity.

Only transfer appropriately licensed software. Macintosh computers come with their system software, a flock of utilities, and often several additional software programs. If you only have one license, then either you or your new computer user can use the program, not both.

Apple now ships its computers with operating system OSX as the default; Mac OS9 is still available. Apple is strongly committed to the advantages of OSX, and most of the initial bumps of a new operating system have been ironed out. While OSX is new, it's built on Unix, which is well-established in professional computing. Apple applied its renowned user interface knowledge to let ordinary people readily use OSX. For the power user, the more arcane Unix commands are also available. OSX is newer, provides benefits, and takes more hard drive and memory space.

Some of your favorite computer applications may not yet be rewritten to operate natively under OSX. They can still operate for a while under OSX's OS9 Classic operating system. While you can do this for a while, eventually some incompatibility will arise--OS11 or 12 or whenever. So encourage your software publishers to upgrade your favorite programs to OSX or think about alternative programs that better support the Macintosh. No immediate rush; it's taken 18 years for Apple to make such a major change to OSX.

The Internet is driving many computer upgrades. Most important for effective Internet use is not the computer, it's the connection to the Internet. Computer networking speeds have increased from the old 300 baud telephone modems to current 56k typical for built-in modems. That's fine for straight text transfer, but most Internet sites now have a slew of graphics. If you're using the Internet for more than just test, consider DSL, cable modem, or other broadband connection. Cable modems have additional privacy concerns, and the more your neighbors use the shared cable connection, the slower your service. But, DSL is not yet universally available. Also on the horizon, increasing miniaturization, more power in smaller packages. Consider how putting some of your Macintosh data on a handheld computer, such as the Palm, might help home and work. (See OpenGuide , above).

Élan Associates, The SuperSource®, 79 West Monroe St #1320, Chicago IL 60603-4969, publishes Mac Guide®, HyperGuide® and the Mac Guide family, registered trademarks of Élan Associates.

All information subject to change; check out your own needs; no warranty from Élan.

Copyright © Élan Associates 2002. All rights reserved.