Forward Migration: Pool company, Haiku artist, Showtime

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(For those new to the column, Forward Migration is our term for companies moving from Wintel machines to Macs -- or at least adding or increasing the number of Macs they use. A Forward Migration Kit is an overview of Mac OS products for a particular occupation, such as photography, optometry, etc.)

Wagner Swimming Pools of Bridgeport, Connecticut, saves a "small fortune" in IT costs by using Macs, according to John Gedney III, who works at the family business. In fact, it was Gedney who keep the business a Mac firm.

"I graduated from college in 1989 and had my family business switch to Macs from an IBM main frame computer that I'm sure would have been replaced by Windows machines had I not chosen to work there. The Macs have been awesome and are easy to train our employees on."

They use Flexware for accounting, Filemaker for database, Vectorworks for CAD, AppleWorks for spreadsheets-word processing, Photoshop for advertising and Web work, and Palm PDAs for keeping appointments. Wagner Swimming Pools is looking into a high end scheduling program, possibly Micro Planner; right now they're using Microsoft Project for Mac.

"The Macs have been great for networking, training, and ease of use," Gedney told MacCentral. "It is by far the best way to run a business."

Meanwhile, See Haiku Here is a Web site dedicated solely to digital artwork. The art is computer-aided, using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop on the Mac. Kuniharu Shimizu, haiku artist, and Web master, calls her art assistants "great tools."

"I have been collaborating with haiku poets from all over the world since last November," Shimizu told MacCentral. "Poets submit haiku poems, and I make digital art from them.

So far I have made almost 300 artworks, covering 106 poets."

In case you're not familiar with it, a haiku, also called hokku, is a form of Japanese poetry with 17 syllables in three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables, often describing nature or a season.

Finally, an Apple Hot News article by Nancy Eaton tells how Showtime Networks recently turned to AppleScript and Macs as a way to produce their daily promotional video menus more efficiently. On Showtime's nine services, the network broadcasts several dozen 20-second video "menus" each day. The menus are aired mid-day through prime-time between each show to inform viewers what's coming up next, later that day or in the near future.

To create the menus, workers combine four different kinds of components -- text, video backgrounds, music and voice tracks -- using software applications including Microsoft Excel, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Media 100, and QuickTime. In the past, the menus were produced individually, a time-consuming and tedious process, Eaton writes.

Because the menu builders would go through the same set of steps each time, the menu-creation process seemed ripe for automation, Dirk Van Dall, VP of Digital Video for Showtime Networks, told Apple. After studying the workflow in detail, Van Dall implemented a series of custom AppleScripts. Showtime's scripts were written with built-in intelligence to handle certain common process deviations.

"For instance, if the title of a movie doesn't fit on one line, but is a letter shy of that, the computer scales the font down one point size at a time until it fits," Van Dall told Apple. "The script also can identify articles and punctuation. If it has to break a movie title into two lines, it breaks it at punctuation in the sentence or at an article. Built-in intelligence in the scripts also works to adjust times. It's really remarkable that Applescript can actually think about time -- it can actually add and subtract."

After all the scripts finish running, the result is a folderful of Showtime menus in QuickTime format, ready for broadcast.

"It's saving huge amounts of time," Van Dall told Apple. "We used to have three people working part time to do menus for the services. Now we're down to one person. We've cut about 140 person-hours a month down to something like 40 or 50."

Now , instead of producing files one by one, Showtime's production staff can think in terms of batches, processing an entire month of menus all at once, Eaton writes.

Do you have a Forward Migration story? Send it our way.

This story, "Forward Migration: Pool company, Haiku artist, Showtime" was originally published by PCWorld.

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