Digital Life Update - February 1998

In Hindsight - December 2017

Almost 20 years on, and the idea of explaining a move to Mac might seem odd. In context, at the time, Apple was a basket case, Jobs barely back, the iMac had just come out and the company was almost bankrupt, so the idea of move to the Mac platform was a bit weird. RhapsodyOS? Wow, I'd forgotten about that. For those who didn't know, that was what was supposed to be OSX, but was shelved at the last minute when Apple bought NeXT with Steve Jobs, and that's where this dimension emerged.


As many of you know, I'm a little strange in that I moved from Wintel to Mac a couple of years ago, but still keep my PC knowledge alive, and intend to buy an Intel compatible machine in the near future, as I return to my career in engineering. It's not that I don't like Microsoft software, it's just that I think the Mac is a better machine for me right now. I own an old Powerbook 190.

Recently, it's been update mania!! I put on the much hyped MacOS 8 and then 8.1. I must say that they do offer real improvements over the older System 7.5 and 7.6. Most of the improvements though, are for beginners, so if you have inexperienced computer users, getting a MacOS 8 Mac is a good move. For more experienced users, the improvements include upgrades to the excellent Open Transporting communications technology, faster application launch, better virtual memory and a host of other performance and stability improvements, including being able to delete files, copy and move other files all at the same time. Windows 95 already has this (!), but it tends to really slow the machine down, whereas MacOS8 doesn't (then again after this long, it should work well!). The appearance also has an upgrade, more shaded boxes, a smoother window frame a more relaxed 90's look. One of the things they haven't done is followed MSWin95 down the 'animated extras' idea. That started with flying pieces of paper whilst copying files, and now has animated character helpers in Office, which just annoy the hell out of me!! Mac users get simple progressing bars and a rough time estimate. Really, it will say "About 1 minute" when copying files, a nice humane touch. Another improvement comes when you open a window in 'list' mode, instead of text on white, all the rows are now divided by a thin grey line meaning that you can look across columns and now have to drag your finger across the screen. There are many other improvements, many are simplifications and other are added useful options, but overall, this is a great upgrade, even from 7.6 and keeps the Mac as the easiest computer to use.

Recently, my small 500Mb hard drive has often been down to the last 50Mb, and my pile of floppy discs had increased to well over 45cms, so I decided it was time to buy a mass storage device. I wanted something small, portable, cheap (both drive and media) and something I could switch between my Powerbook and future PC's and Macs. I looked at MO: large storage on reliable discs and then decided against it on grounds of cost of drives and the fact that it's particularly slow. In the end, I bought an Iomega Zip drive, which at 100MB per cartridge is quite small, but at JPY700 a disk and the drive at JPY15,000 if you buy it from the U.S. and have it shipped over, it was a good solution. As a SCSI model, I can use it on a PC as well as my Mac, and the software drivers for both come with the drive. Not the best solution, but the right one for me. Now I can just drag my website to the Zip icon, instead of compressing the 10Mb site and then spanning it over 6 floppies. It's made things a lot easier. I now have an easier back up system!

Cheap Computing

There's been a lot of updates coming out on the Net lately, both updates for commercial software, as well as freeware and shareware, Mac users should check out Version Tracker. I'm well known for trying to get the maximum out of the cheapest set up! However, having written a little code myself, I know how much time and effort writing a program takes, so please, if you use a program a lot and you really like it, reward the author with his/her shareware fee. Thanks! Here's this months favourites:

A good bit of freeware is BBEdit 4.1 Lite by Barebones. It is a text editor, but it's got so many features, I can't even start to describe them. It is a really small program, uses very little memory and is great for web page creation and editing. I usually rough design my pages in Claris HomePage Lite (another free program which came with ClarisWorks Office 5) and then edit the HTML in BBEdit. A Win95 version is due later this year, and I really do suggest you get a copy. Therefore my web creation tools were free! I've been using BBEdit Lite for a year now, and this month I'll pay for the 'Professional' version, which has even more features, especially those geared to HTML hacking.

Graphic Converter is shareware, but is fully working without paying the license, however, I will be getting my license later this month. This will convert (either one image, or in bulk) one file to another format, with a lot of options along the way. It also has a simple painting/editing section and a image browser and slide show too.

There are lots of other great pieces of shareware out there, but unfortunately, right now, I'm only using Mac stuff. When I return to Britain later in the year, I'll start recommending more PC stuff (suggestions are welcome though). Here's my top 5 pick this month:

  1. Default Folder
  2. Greg's Browser
  3. Disk Surveyor
  4. JPEGView
  5. Smart Scroll

The State of Computing

1998 is turning out to be a very interesting year. Just when we thought Microsoft would finish taking over the industry, a lot a new directions have emerged. Apple, dying in 1996/97 is now in profit, with the fastest machines and the latest OS; also, it's new Rhapsody OS will run on Intel.

It's interesting that in the early 1990's everyone said that software was the vital standard, but now, it's hardware again - Apple will compete on the same platform as Microsoft along with Linux and BeOS. It's also fun that Intel itself is under more pressure from the x86 clones.

Also, just as many saw Netscape running scared from MS in 1997, they return to the New Year with a free browser, and will even release the source code onto the Net for developers to play with. I don't see Microsoft doing that.

Indeed, the BigMS might be making lots of money, but its future position may not be as good. Windows 98 may be delayed by the rather strange Department of Justice investigation into its OS/Browser idea. Also, MS is pushing the all singing, all dancing NT5 as a Unix killer, but since NT4 is still struggling with big bug problems and security holes as large as Idaho, it might make Unix server managers think twice. Even if all goes to plan, by the end of this year, we'll have a LOT of Windows: 3.1x, 95, 98, NT 3.51, 4, 5 & CE. All of these are not 100% compatible either, and it's known that in corporate areas, there are more 3.1x's than 95's, for now. How much more fragmentation can the market take? It's known too, that by 2002, MS wants this line-up down to 2 flavours: NT and CE. Good luck to them and us on that!

Well, that was February. Just time to type that the 26th is/was my birthday, and I'm sure I had a great time! All the best.