In his essential extras for the PowerBook G3 (“Road Gear,” January 1999″), Stephan Somogyi noted that unless you own the PowerBook G3/300, you’ll need to get the DVD-Video Kit from Apple. I’ve had an order in for a DVD-Video Kit since July 1998. My local Apple dealer has received zero kits. I’ve been round and round with Apple’s customer relations, all to no avail. The bottom line is, if you already have your PowerBook, forget about getting a DVD-Video Kit. You’d be better off returning your existing machine and purchasing new, because the only way you are going to get the kit is to buy one of the high-end machines that includes it.
In “Road Gear,” you mention the wireless modem service of Metricom’s Ricochet but miss the best part. Ricochet works in many airports, in addition to the areas it officially covers. By staying at a hotel close to an airport, I always have access to the Net without any hassles. I used to run an ISP, and I know?Ricochet is a very good ISP.
[[Ricochet does work in several airports. For a full list of coverage areas, go to www.ricochet.net/coverage/citylist.html. Ed.]]
I found many of the tips in David Pogue’s Survival Skills very interesting (January 1999). At one point he says there is never any need to shut down the PowerBook between routine uses. While this is theoretically true, I have discovered some problems with the sleep feature. Often, when the PowerBook is reawakened for the second or third time, I run into memory problems, slower processing, more frequent freeze-ups, and control-strip malfunctions. Overall, the PowerBook G3 has not met my expectations for performance and often does not meet my modest needs.
Serious Shareware only serves as a reminder that Macworld should regularly cover shareware, since it is such an important part of the Macintosh experience (January 1999). I suggest that you make shareware coverage a monthly feature. I am sure every reader will be disappointed that some favorite item was not covered (although previous issues have mentioned many shareware applications and utilities in passing). Outside such indispensable interface enhancements as FinderPop, GoMac, Kaleidoscope, and Window Monkey, my favorite is the PIM Consultant, which is so sophisticated it could easily be marketed as a commercial product.
We love shareware and agree that it is worthy of as much coverage as it can get. However, until someone finds a way to download shareware by clicking on paper, the Internet is still the ideal medium for shareware coverage. 🙂 That is why we maintain the http://www.macdownload.com site (through ZDNet), which is loaded with reviews of shareware products.
Making the Grade
I read Deke McClelland’s review of Illustrator 8 (Reviews, January 1999) and was surprised to see in the summary, “Cons: Gradient Mesh tool is more sizzle than substance.” Maybe it needs more control, but I think it is the best tool I have ever seen in 2-D design. What it can do is very impressive and high-quality. In addition, some effects are quicker with this tool than with the previous gradient.
I compliment Stephan Somogyi on his review of Norton Utilities for Macintosh 4.0 (Reviews, January 1999). It was thorough, fair, and deservedly critical. I’ve relied upon Norton’s software since my first Mac purchase five years ago, and I have always found it strong and reliable. But that changed with my upgrade to version 4.0. Merely opening the program freezes or crashes my PowerBook 1400. Norton hasn’t been able to suggest how to get the program to even run. Somogyi hit the nail on the head in stating that this release was not yet ready for sale.
The Missing Link
As Christopher Breen noted, MacLinkPlus Deluxe has room for improvement (Reviews, January 1998). If MacLinkPlus Deluxe wasn’t like the opposite sex (can’t live with it, can’t live without it), it would be easier to take. When is someone who understands Macs going to work for DataViz? Apart from the problems Breen pointed out, there are several others, ranging from annoyances to serious problems. For instance, AppleWorks 5 isn’t supported, and the program crashes regularly on Word files. I’m thinking of divorcing version 10 and going back to my old flame?version 9.7.
Remember the Faithful
Why is there no serious cover-age of high-end programs such as Newtek’s Lightwave 3D? I appreciate David Biedny’s fondness for ElectricImage Animation System 2.8 (Reviews, January 1999), but that is not the only high-end 3-D program on the Mac! In general, Macworld doesn’t seem to bother with high-end applications. The iMac is here?we know already. I understand that you want to pick up all the new members of the Apple family, but you must remember who else is reading your magazine. A lot of us are trying to push the envelope a little, and we would like to stay on the Mac platform.
Philip Dyer forgot one other low-cost option for playing PC games?the low-end PC ( The Game Room, January 1999). Especially when compared with the cost of Orange Micro’s “solutions,” you really come out ahead. Right underneath my copy of Macworld is a pile of PC ads and catalogs that have 200MHz to 300MHz PCs for under $600! A good PC box and an A/B monitor switch work great for my job, where I constantly encounter both platforms. We tried the Orange Micro cards and, for the money, we were sadly disappointed.
I ‘ve always been jealous of the variety of titles available for Windows. As Philip Dyer points out, PC emulation?using software or hardware?is slow and expensive. There’s another, hidden problem with PC emulation: it reduces the incentive for game companies to make Macintosh versions of their games. Why hire Mac-savvy programmers and pay more production costs if the Mac users are buying the Windows versions? PC emulation is fine for translating an occasional spreadsheet, but if we use it as a long-term solution to gaming, Mac-native games will always be too little, too late, and too slow. The Mac just isn’t a gaming platform. Why make a silk purse from a sow’s ear? Either bite the bullet and buy a full-fledged PC, or save yourself a thousand bucks and get a game console.
Put the ‘Book Back
Canada’s new national news-paper, National Post, launched October 26 using Macs from end to end. Our executive editor gave every reporter a choice: we could take either a desktop or a PowerBook. After wrestling with the choice, almost every reporter here, including me, went with the desktop. Yes, it would be convenient to take the PowerBook home, but it would be a hassle to plug in the power cord and hook into the corporate network every day. The desktop’s full-size keyboard is still more comfortable than a portable’s, and a 17-inch monitor is still a lot more screen real estate than a PowerBook offers. And while the TrackPad is a great pointing device, I’ve yet to find the person who prefers it to a good old-fashioned one-button mouse. Portable computing devices, including the PowerBook, may one day free us from our desks. Here in Toronto, though, reporters of National Post, when given the chance to be free, decided to stay down on the cubicle farm.
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