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Is this the end of East Coast Macworld Expos? Adam returns from New York with a first-hand account of the show's size and atmosphere, as well as his list of superlative products. We also mourn the loss of TidBITS translator Walter Van Lerberghe. In the news, Apple posts a security update and a $19 million Q3 profit, Dantz provides a firmware update for some PowerBook G4 optical drives, Netscape lays off its developers, and iData Pro X survives Casady & Greene.
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Apple Posts $19 Million Q3 Profit -- Apple Computer announced a $19 million profit for its third fiscal quarter of 2003. The company shipped 771,000 Macs during the three-month period; that's 60,000 more than Apple sold in its previous fiscal quarter. While iMac and iBook sales increased a bit, both PowerBook and Power Macintosh sales dropped (the latter probably in expectation of the not-yet-shipping Power Mac G5 models and the rumored 15-inch aluminum PowerBook G4). Although international sales accounted for only 39 percent of the quarter's revenues and Apple's margin dropped to a still-healthy 27.7 percent, the company still has over $4.5 billion in cash and short term investments, and expects its fourth quarter will bring an increase in both revenue and earnings. [GD]
Not To Praise Netscape, But To Bury It -- Following on AOL's $750 million settlement and technology agreement with Microsoft last month, AOL announced last week it was laying off 50 employees at its Netscape Communications subsidiary while simultaneously donating Mozilla trademarks, intellectual property, and some $2 million over the next two years to the Mozilla Foundation, a new non-profit organization coordinating the Mozilla open source project. AOL was quick to point out that its layoffs involved less than 10 percent of its Netscape subsidiary; they didn't mention that the terminated personnel constituted the entire Netscape development team. AOL plans to continue supporting the Netscape browser and portal site (and insists it is looking for ways to leverage the Netscape brand), but it's now all-but-certain that no updates, bug fixes, or development will take place on Netscape software - which may be of no great consequence, given the minimal market share owned by the Netscape browsers these days. Some former Netscape coders may find new homes at the Mozilla Foundation: perhaps that will bode well for its Mozilla and Firebird projects (and, by extension, the Camino browser for Mac OS X). [GD]
Security Update Fixes Screen Effects Problem -- Apple has released Security Update 2003-07-14, fixing a potential security issue related to using a password when waking a Mac from a running Screen Effects screensaver. The update, which requires Mac OS X 10.2.6, fixes a situation where an unauthorized user could gain access to the computer when the password prompt was displayed. Apple has posted the update as a 1.7 MB stand-alone download, as well as made it available under Software Update. [JLC]
iData Pro X Opportunity -- If you were intrigued by our review of iData Pro X and have been thinking of trying out the software for yourself, now is a good time (see "The Digital Shoebox: iData Pro X 1.0.5" in TidBITS-675). The recent demise of Casady and Greene (which we noted in TidBITS-686) has left iData Pro developer Mike Wright without a sales channel. While working out the details, he has upped the expiration date on the demo version to 31-Dec-03. So if you'd like to try iData Pro X for six months - free - nip over to his site and download the 1 MB demo. [MAN]
Dantz Provides Optical Drive Firmware Updates -- If you own an older Titanium PowerBook G4 with a Combo or SuperDrive, and if you also use Retrospect to back up data to CDs or DVDs, you may need to upgrade the optical drive using a firmware update recently released by Dantz. The firmware updaters work on Matshita optical drives installed prior to January of 2003. To determine the revision number of your drive's firmware, launch Apple System Profiler, switch to the Devices and Volumes tab, and look under the Bus heading. Be sure to read the directions at Dantz's Web page for full details. [JLC]
by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
There are downsides to creating and participating in a strong community - the inevitable sense of sadness and loss when a member passes away. That happened for us last week with the death of Walter Van Lerberghe, one of the key members of the volunteer team that produces the Dutch translation of TidBITS. Seven years ago, Walter first started to work with the French translation of TidBITS; shortly afterwards he helped start and maintain the Dutch translation, something he continued to do despite increasingly ill health in recent years. We don't know how Walter died, but he had been in hospital shortly before his death. Although he had written on July 6th to say that he would let the rest of the group know when he could start translating TidBITS again, that turned out to be the last message any of us received from him. We'll miss Walter, his editing of the Dutch translations, and the postcards he sent whenever he was traveling. He was 68.
Although there's no replacing Walter, the Dutch translation team, along with our long-standing French, German, and Japanese teams, could use a few more volunteer translators. So if you'd like to join a group of Macintosh enthusiasts in translating TidBITS into Dutch, French, German, or Japanese, check out the pages below for more information. And of course, if you're interested in starting or restarting another translation, just let me know. In particular, it looks like we may have a Brazilian Portuguese translation starting up again.
by Adam C. Engst <email@example.com>
"So what do you think of the show?"
If I hear those words one more time, I swear I'll scream. This Macworld Expo in New York City has felt a bit like a collective therapy session, where everyone is trying to figure out how everyone else is feeling. So let's work through a few facts and observations before moving on to what I thought of the show.
First off, yes, the show floor was less than half the size of previous years, occupying only one of the two cavernous halls that it usually uses, and not even all of that one, if you peered behind the curtains. (With apologies to the Wizard of Oz, "Pay no attention to the space behind the curtains!") As I told people who asked me what I thought of the show on the first day, when I'd had several straight hours of presentations and meetings after the keynote, "I don't know, since I haven't seen the show floor at all yet. [Pause for a brief glance around.] Okay, now that I've seen it all..." Unfortunately, the second hall wasn't completely blocked off, emphasizing the small size of this year's show.
It's also true, and it was painfully obvious, that there were many fewer exhibitors than in previous years, with large booths in particularly short supply. Without the inclusion of Apple's large booth, and the good-sized booths from Canon, Epson, and Hewlett-Packard, the curtains would have been pulled in much further. Plus, the number of exhibitors was boosted by last minute fire sale prices on booth space that made attendance possible for some companies that wouldn't otherwise have been able to afford the space to exhibit. Even still, the lack of exhibitors meant that many attendees left early instead of sticking around for the entire three days.
Equally clear was the fact that attendance was far lower than in previous years. Although the aisles were often crowded, with only a single hall of exhibitors, it stands to reason that fewer people could easily fill the available space. Compressing the show floor into a smaller space helped keep the energy high, and IDG World Expo also worked to shrink the conference rooms so lower attendance wasn't noticed. My iPhoto session was standing room only, but in a room that was smaller than in previous years. Along with fewer people at this year's TidBITS Ice Cream Social the night before Macworld, the main place I noticed the lower attendance was at the keynote, since with Apple's Greg "Joz" Joswiak gamely standing in for Steve Jobs, there was no need to corral the media in a special holding area or to organize block-long lines for the rest of the attendees.
Everyone, and I mean absolutely everyone, commented on the size of the show floor and the reduced number of exhibitors. My tongue-in-cheek joke was that it was like the scene from the movie Spinal Tap in which the band, on the way down in popularity, plays a gig where they're billed below a puppet show: "If I've told them once, I've told them hundred times... put 'Macworld Expo' first and 'Puppet Show' last." In a fit of extreme cleverness, I first made that joke to a friend who was talking at the time to a guy who turned out to be a sales rep for IDG World Expo. Open mouth, insert foot, lather, rinse, and repeat...
So the show was an utter failure, right? Far from it.
I talked to many exhibitors, and almost without exception, they ranged from quite happy to ecstatic about the number of people who were coming by their booths and asking questions about their products. Those companies selling products on the floor were reporting lower sales than last year, but at levels that were either in proportion with the reduced attendance or well above what had been expected.
If you could get people to stop talking about how small the show floor was, they seemed pretty happy about what they'd seen. I found a number of companies with interesting products, and I'm sure that if you were a real "creative professional" there were even more products of interest.
For both attendees and exhibitors, there's no question that expectations were pretty low, making it easy for the show to exceed them. In some ways, it's a little too bad, since if IDG World Expo hadn't panicked and started changing the name of the show willy-nilly, it's entirely likely that there would have been more exhibitors and a broader range of attendees. It's not as though all Macworld Expos - even those since the return of Steve Jobs - have had Apple keynotes that included scores of product announcements; had IDG World Expo stayed the original course, sans Apple, the show might have been larger.
So how was it possible that a Macworld Expo could end up being a good show, without a Steve Jobs keynote, major new product announcements from Apple, or even booths from Microsoft (present only via a banner), Adobe (which had some rooms downstairs for presentations), or Quark (which did a feature presentation)? Perhaps, just as in Dr. Seuss's children's book How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Macworld Expo isn't about all those material things, but is instead successful based on something else, something a little less empirical. Or perhaps that's just me being fuzzy-brained in the early morning hours of a city that never sleeps. But if the exhibitors were happy, and the attendees were happy (even if they left early), then the only one left is IDG World Expo, and I suspect their happiness will be tied purely to the bottom line, which they aren't likely to reveal.
Whither Macworld? So all this begs the question of where Macworld Expo will go in the future, at least for the East Coast show. Honestly, I have no idea, and IDG World Expo wasn't announcing anything on the show signage. Their Web site still claims Macworld will be in Boston starting 12-Jul-04, but there were rumors at the show of those plans falling through. I see a few possibilities.
IDG World Expo could stick with the original plan and move Macworld Expo to Boston next year, with or without a major Apple presence. Although airfares to Boston are generally higher than those to New York, Boston is a bit cheaper than New York otherwise, while still being easily accessible to people on the East Coast.
IDG World Expo might be able to wiggle out of the commitment with Boston and continue to put on a show in New York aimed at graphic designers, desktop publishers, and audio and video professionals. If this year's show worked, who's to say another one next year wouldn't? In fact, after the first Macworld Expo in New York in 1998, the subsequent show was planned for Boston again, but those plans were changed midway through the year, and New York has won out ever since.
If the finances simply don't work out, IDG World Expo could just roll up the carpet and cancel all future East Coast Macintosh events, sticking purely with January's Macworld Expo in San Francisco. That would be a shame.
We'll just have to wait and see what IDG World Expo decides to do. Though this possibility doesn't seem likely, it would be interesting if IDG World Expo decided to move away from the monolithic shows and toward smaller regional shows that would attract more local users and companies. The Los Angeles Macintosh User Group used to put on a one-day event along those lines, and it's not far from the Mac Mania cruise approach either. Those sort of shows might not bring in the big bucks, but it doesn't look to me as though the big bucks are out there to be brought in anyway.
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by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Despite the low attendance, both on the part of exhibitors and attendees, Macworld Expo didn't disappoint in the slightest when it came to new and interesting products and events. Here are my picks of the show.
Best Non-Apple iApp -- Greg Scown of Smile Software, undeterred by Apple's inclusion of fax capabilities in Mac OS X 10.3 Panther, isn't resting on the laurels of his well-reviewed fax utility PageSender. With designer Philip Goward of OnMyMac, LLC, he has created Disclabel, an elegant application for Mac OS X that helps you design and print labels (along with jewel case inserts) for CDs and DVDs. Using an iApp-style interface, Disclabel integrates with iTunes to extract track information from playlists and with iPhoto to use your photos as background art. Disclabel even supports AppleScript for completely automated disc label generation. It supports oodles of templates for all the common disc label stock you can buy, and it works with the Epson printers that can print directly on CDs and DVDs. If you put effort into making CDs and DVDs, you owe it to yourself to try Disclabel. Disclabel costs $30 and is a 2.9 MB download for a demo that puts watermarks on printed labels and can't share or download new templates.
If you like the idea of Disclabel, you should also take a look at Business Card Composer from BeLight Software, a new Ukrainian company from some of the people who created ConceptDraw. Like Disclabel, Business Card Composer provides a clean interface to designing and printing business cards. Even I, with my minimal design skills, was able to use it to make attractive business cards in a matter of moments. Business Card Composer requires Mac OS X, costs $40, and is a 6.2 MB download.
Most Wired Receptionist -- Can't afford your own personal assistant to answer your telephone? Neither can we, but Parliant's PhoneValet will do most of the work for far less. A combination hardware and software product, PhoneValet is a USB device that plugs connects your Mac to a phone line, and once set up, uses caller ID with special Mac OS X software to announce who's calling, log incoming and outgoing calls for reporting and billing purposes, and initiate calls for you via voice commands from your Mac. It's even scriptable, so you can have incoming calls trigger custom actions. PhoneValet works with standard analog phone lines (it supports multiple lines) and costs $130 for one line, with the hardware for each additional line you want to support adding $90.
Toothiest USB Radio -- Though it's not yet shipping, Griffin Technology's RadioSHARK grabbed my attention right away. It's a shark fin-shaped AM/FM radio that connects via (and is powered by) USB, playing the received signal through your Mac's speakers and optionally saving the audio to your hard disk. But what's cool is that it's controlled entirely through software, so you'll be able to set it to record radio shows at specific times - we're talking TiVo for radio here! (Actually, it's more like El Gato's EyeTV for radio, and there's of course no program guide information for local radio, so you have to program it the way you program a VCR.) RadioSHARK will also support capturing Internet streaming audio, so you'll have a complete solution for moving radio to your iPod for on-demand listening no matter where you are. You can pre-order the RadioSHARK for $50; Griffin says it will ship within a few months.
Pivot This! So ATI comes up with a hot new video card, the Radeon 9800 Pro, with video specs out the wazoo. Parallel pipelines, 32-bit per channel rendering, dual integrated 10-bit per channel DACs, and so on. But what's unique about this video card is that it can rotate what's on screen by 90 degrees in either direction, or, for those times when you simply must browse the Web while standing on your head, 180 degrees. But 90 degree rotation is neat - all of Apple's monitors are great for wide-screen video, but what if you want long-screen video for some reason? Pop this video card in your Mac, attach your Apple Studio or Cinema Display to a StudioLift or CinemaLift monitor arm from Innovative Office Products, and you can rotate both the physical monitor and your virtual desktop. The Radeon 9800 Pro, which costs $400 or $500, works with Mac OS X's Quartz display technology to do all the transformations on the fly, and the Mac simply believes it has a 1200 by 1600 monitor, for instance, rather than a 1600 by 1200 monitor.
Most Harmonized Remote Control -- If you're anything like me, you have remote controls for the television, the TiVo, the VCR, the cable box, and goodness knows what else. They all claim to control other devices, but my experience is that each one has at least one unique function, forcing you to keep all of them handy. Worse than the clutter is the confusion of trying to explain to all members of the household how to perform particular audio-visual maneuvers: "To play a videotape, just change the channel on the TV to 4 on this remote, switch to Line 1 input, and use the VCR remote as you would normally. Got that?" Intrigue Technologies has come to the rescue with a remote control that's not only truly universal, but meets the exacting needs and desires of the computer-savvy user. That's because the Harmony SST-768 remote is programmable, in the sense that you can teach it a set of actions necessary to accomplish a certain task. We're talking about macros for your home theater.
A small LCD and roller wheel provide the main interface, augmented by the standard complement of buttons. But how does it know how to control the many different devices out there? A USB jack connects to the Mac, where you use special software to download remote definitions and even television program guide information. At $300, the Harmony SST-768 isn't cheap (a show special of $135 made it one of the most popular buys at Macworld), but it very well might be worthwhile for restoring marital harmony. A version with fewer buttons - the Harmony SST-748 - costs only $200; I can't tell if the lack of buttons would be problematic in normal use.
Hardest Act to Follow -- Man, you have to feel for the guy. Greg "Joz" Joswiak, Apple's VP of Hardware Product Marketing, must have picked the short straw of standing in for Steve Jobs for the Macworld Expo keynote. Despite a clever set of slides early on where Joz admitted that he was indeed the love child of Apple founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (Jobs + Wozniak = Joswiak), Joz didn't have the material Jobs normally marshals for a big keynote. Nevertheless, Apple's announcement of a free upgrade to Final Cut Express for now-orphaned Adobe Premiere users was extremely well-received, as was the announcement that Soundtrack, previously available only with Final Cut Pro, would now also be a stand-alone product for $300. Joz's best moment came when showing the power of the Power Mac G5 and the Xserve RAID to do live compositing of video footage (overlaying a scene of him hamming for the camera on top of a London street scene).
A Cheaper Alternative -- Soundtrack too expensive for you at $300? It's not completely comparable of course, but if you just need to record and edit some sounds in Mac OS X (there's an older version for Mac OS 9), Felt Tip Software's $50 Sound Studio is worth a look. It supports 24-bit/96 kHz audio in either stereo or mono, copy-and-paste editing, a variety of effects and transformations you can apply to sounds, AppleScript support for recording and playback, and much more. My favorite feature, though, is the automatic starting and stopping of recording based on timers or user-configurable audio levels. It can save in AIFF, WAVE, System 7 sound, and Sound Designer II formats, and it can import anything QuickTime can play, such as MP3 and AAC and audio CD tracks. The free trial version works for 14 days (that's 14 independent days that you use it, not 14 contiguous days, interestingly), plenty of time to see if it's what you need.
Cutest Graphics Tablet -- Always thought that graphics tablets were too expensive to get if you didn't have a serious use for them? Me too, until I saw Macally's iceCad, a $50 tablet with a pressure-sensitive pen. It's not big, of course, with an active area of 2.85 inches (7.24 cm) by 2.14 inches (5.44 cm), but it worked fine at the Macally booth for me. The pen has two barrel buttons and another button in the tip for the 1,024-level pressure sensitivity. The pen's AAAA battery should last about six months if you used it eight hours a day, since it turns off automatically three minutes after you used it last. It works with the Inkwell handwriting recognition built into Mac OS X, along with a variety of graphics applications. Macally was also showing a slew of other neat devices and accessories, such as retractable cables for FireWire, USB, Ethernet, and telephone - ideal for reducing the clutter in your laptop bag.
Squishiest PDF Compressor -- Leonard Rosenthol of PDF Sages may no longer be working on StuffIt, but compression is clearly in his blood, as evidenced by PDF Enhancer, his utility for compressing and optimizing PDF files. It was amazing to see the level to which PDF Enhancer could compress bloated PDF files, particularly if the highest image quality wasn't necessary. I tried it on the Keynote-based iPhoto 2 presentation I gave at the show (my presentation has a bunch of full-size photos dragged from iPhoto into Keynote). After exporting my presentation to PDF in Keynote, I was left with a 17.7 MB file, but when I asked PDF Enhancer to shrink it for screen presentation (which left the images a bit jagged, but completely recognizable), the resulting file was 520K, a savings of 97.2 percent. PDF Enhancer isn't cheap at $180, but if you work with beefy PDF files regularly (as many of the creative professional types at Macworld do), it's worth trying out the fully functional but time-limited demo.
Tackiest Training -- Ever seen Mac luminaries like Andy Ihnatko, Bob LeVitus, Shawn King, or John Welch at a user group meeting or Macworld Expo presentation? They're a hoot to watch, and now you can learn about the basics of Mac OS X from them in the comfort of your own living room or office, thanks to the just-released TackyShirt training DVD, "Mac OS X Disc 1: The Basics". Actually, short of their Hawaiian shirts, the backgrounds, and some transitions, there isn't much tacky about this DVD at all, and it's a lot of fun. I particularly enjoyed the extensive post-production TackyShirt did for the DVD - it's hilarious seeing Shawn and John talk about Mac OS X's folder structure as document icons peek over the back of the couch they're sitting on. TackyShirt's first disc of Mac OS X training costs $40; you can pre-order the full four-disc set for $150 and receive the first disc now.
If you decide you like DVD-based training, check out Avondale Media's line of similar, though less wacky, DVDs. Avondale Media is Steve Broback, Jim Heid, and Toby Malina, and they also do a good job of explaining how various programs work. Look for training on Word X, Entourage X, Excel X, Adobe Photoshop, and digital photography. Prices range from $20 to $50, and the running time of different DVDs goes from 17 to 94 minutes. And of course, there are always the training CD-ROMs from occasional TidBITS sponsor MacAcademy for an even wider range of topics.
The League of Extraordinary Robots -- Forget the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie that's in the theaters right now. For something neat that doesn't require special effects, check out the Web site of the League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots, or LEMUR. LEMUR is a Brooklyn, NY-based group of artists and technologists developing robotic musical instruments that play themselves - the robots are the instruments. At Macworld, LEMUR was showing GuitarBot, which has four independently controllable stringed units that can pick and slide extremely rapidly. You can hear (and see) the GuitarBot in action in QuickTime videos on the LEMUR Web site; it was extremely neat to see it playing at the show, though it was hard to hear anything clearly among the trade show floor din.
Latest Competition for FontBook -- Mac OS X 10.3 Panther hasn't even shipped yet, but companies are queuing up for potshots at FontBook, the font-management utility in Panther. The latest entrant is Alsoft, makers of that excellent disk repair tool DiskWarrior, with version 3.0 of their venerable MasterJuggler utility, now for Mac OS X. First Extensis claimed they're not worried about FontBook competing with Suitcase (or their just-purchased FontReserve), and now Alsoft is saying basically the same thing. Honestly, I don't do enough with fonts to know how MasterJuggler compares to Suitcase or the upcoming FontBook, but if you're a font maven, give it a look. MasterJuggler 3.0 costs $90; upgrades from previous versions are $58.
Cleanest Screen -- That's my iBook screen, thanks to RadTech, which was showing off the versatility of their ScreensavRz, an ultra-microfiber cloth that protects your laptop screen from the oil left on the keys and can also be used with alcohol wipes (included) to clean your screen. I'd never used one of those screen protectors, so my iBook's screen featured a nasty set of key imprints, but between the alcohol wipe and careful scrubbing, RadTech's CEO managed to restore my screen to a pristine state. (Gotta love a company whose CEO spends hours at Macworld cleaning the screens of all comers.) It's worth poking around at other stuff on their site as well, they have Ice Creme for eliminating scratches from the acrylic surface of an iBook, tools for adjusting your screen hinge tightness, and more.
Coolest Apple Store -- I realize I'm going out on a limb here, since I've been to only three of the Apple Stores around the country, but after Saturday's experience at the Soho store, I'm giving it the nod. During the week, my iBook's Delete key broke such that if I tapped it on the left side, the key popped off, forcing me to stop writing and press it back on carefully. Hitting the Delete key only on the right side proved impossible for me, so I took the key off entirely and wrote most of this issue with just the nub underneath. Since I was planning to be in Soho on Saturday morning to check out the street artists, I brought my Delete key into the Apple Store there to see if they could do anything for me.
Growing bored with waiting for the guy in front me, I moved over to watch the woman at the Genius Bar helping him. He was having problems with moving Now Contact files from a somewhat battered Titanium PowerBook G4 over to a new 17-inch PowerBook; since the woman wasn't familiar with Now Contact, it was clearly going to take her a while. When I suggested that I might be able to help, having used Now Contact for many years, she gratefully let me take over. After a bit of investigation I was well on my way to solving the problem, so I passed her my broken Delete key and asked if she could help. She disappeared into the back room, and as the man was giving me his business card so I could email him details of my iPhoto book, she returned with a brand new Delete key. My errand a complete success, I was even more amused to see that the man I'd been helping was a Special Advisor to the Secretary General of the United Nations. Clearly I'll have to introduce him to TidBITS.
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Defragmenting and optimizing -- Readers who do a lot of video or graphics work continue to chime in about the effectiveness of defragmenting hard drives. Also, if your Mac's performance does improve after defragmenting or optimizing the drive, is the improvement too small to notice? (23 messages)
Moving virtual memory swap files -- The discussion of virtual memory swap files continues, focusing some applications (like Safari) that seem to leak memory and cause swap files to grow uncontrollably. Some useful performance improvement tips here! (32 messages)
Software Update operations -- You can run Software Update from a command line, but there can be complications when shutting down or restarting from there. Also discussed is why Software Update doesn't work for non-admin users and why Apple requires restarting after many updates. (9 messages)
Non-profit, non-commercial publications and Web sites may reprint or link to articles if full credit is given. Others please contact us. We do not guarantee accuracy of articles. Caveat lector. Publication, product, and company names may be registered trademarks of their companies. TidBITS ISSN 1090-7017.
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