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Product Comments

Even though I may not have been thoroughly impressed by the products at the show, there were plenty of products worth mentioning. These in no way relate to each other – I just found them interesting at the show or in press materials. I’ll have more of these notes next week as well – there isn’t room for everything.

TaxPro — Although I don’t own a Newton, I kept an eye out for interesting Newton applications at the show. Many of those present (and there weren’t all that many) were distributed by Apple’s StarCore publishing group, and among that set was TaxPro (about $50, I think, and I’d check Apple dealers first for availability) from Advanced Mobile, a truly Newton-esque application. As you might expect from the name, TaxPro helps you do U.S. income taxes, but unlike the multi-megabyte behemoth MacInTax, it doesn’t attempt to include every possible form or calculation, and isn’t designed to print IRS-acceptable forms. Instead, TaxPro is a tax planner that removes much of the confusion from attempting to fill out the IRS’s, shall we say, comprehensive forms. And since TaxPro resides on your Newton in a 120K file, it’s perfect for quickly checking the tax implications of a financial move on the spot. Of course, as a Newton application, TaxPro makes it easy to email or fax the tax projections to someone else. Although I haven’t used TaxPro for my taxes, I did play with it at the show, and especially liked the way it allowed you to work in simple worksheets rather than complex forms. TaxPro contains tax rates for both 1992 and 1993, and I’m sure Advanced Mobile will have a free or cheap upgrade to the 1994 rates when possible. Although anyone who has to mess with their tax planning will appreciate TaxPro, I suspect that financial professionals will especially like the ability to quickly project tax returns and electronically bounce the information to clients with a minimum of fuss.

Advanced Mobile — [email protected] — TaxPro via NewtonMail — 414/271-7711 — 414/224-1525 (fax)

FlipBook — S.H. Pierce & Co. showed FlipBook, a clever little application that turns QuickTime movies, PICS animations, and frames from the Scrapbook into a paper flipbook, in which you flip the pages quickly to simulate the frames of a movie. FlipBook ships with special paper for making flipbooks and works with both QuickDraw and PostScript printers. It does require a 68020 or greater Mac. As is unfortunately common, they didn’t put the price on their glossy propaganda.

S.H. Pierce & Co. — 617/338-2222 — 617/338-2223 (fax)

Sumo — MacSoft, a division of WizardWorks, showed Sumo, a new game based on the sport of sumo wrestling. The basic idea is to bounce the opponent’s ball out of the ring, and you can either play against the computer, which learns your moves and adjusts, or against another person, although then one person must use the keyboard, which looked as though it might be more difficult than using a mouse. If you play with the mouse, you don’t have to click. A dragging motion is all you need, making Sumo potentially more attractive to people flirting with RSI problems.

MacSoft — 800/229-2714

White Knight 11 does not support the Communications Toolbox, according to the FreeSoft rep at their booth, but they plan CTB support for version 12. Once White Knight supports the CTB, those of us who work with MacTCP and the Internet will be able to use it with telnet tools and other Internet applications.

The FreeSoft Company — 412/846-2700

Open Sesame ($99 list) from Charles River Analytics should be a fascinating utility to test. The first learning agent for the Mac (or any other mass market platform), Open Sesame watches your actions and when it thinks it detects a pattern, it asks if you would like it to automate that task. It even keeps track of day and time, so if you always run a backup on Friday afternoon, or always switch into WordTris at 4:55 PM, Open Sesame will note that. I’m looking forward to it more than most utilities, because even though I already automate many tasks with QuicKeys and a few with AppleScript and Frontier, I always wonder what I’m missing.

Charles River Analytics — 800/913-35335 — 617/491-3474 — 617/868-0780 (fax) — [email protected][email protected]

Street Atlas USA 2.0 from DeLorme Mapping should prove to be a useful application of CD-ROM technology, since it’s a complete road map of the entire United States, theoretically down to the tiniest back roads. I grew up on a dirt road that barely showed up on local maps, so I’d be curious if Street Atlas includes that road, but it claims to show more than 12 million street segments and over 1 million lakes, ponds, rivers, parks, railroads, and monuments. Since version 1.0 appeared first on Windows (think of Windows users as guinea pigs), this version is the same as the just-released version 2.0 for Windows. You can search on zip code, place name, or phone number, and view and print maps at a variety of scales.

DeLorme Mapping — 207/865-1234

MacHandwriter appeared in the U.S. market after being available in Japan for some time. From Communication Intelligence Corporation (CIC), MacHandwriter is a complete pen input system for the Macintosh, and includes the necessary software, a pen (you can get a pressure-sensitive pen from CIC if you use FreeHand or other pressure-sensitive program), and a thin graphics tablet. Although the press release claims MacHandwriter "is compatible with standard off-the-shelf applications including graphics and desktop publishing, word processing, spreadsheet, and databases" it doesn’t anywhere claim complete compatibility, which is either honesty (is anything completely compatible?) or a way of saying that it works with a lot of software but doesn’t work with plenty as well. Either way, it sounds neat, and is affordable at $399. Until 28-Feb-94, the price is even lower at $199.

CIC — 800/888-9242 — 415/802-7888 — 415/802-7777 (fax)

El-Fish from Maxis should satisfy aquarists who can’t keep up with a large tank of cichlids or who don’t get The Aquarium Channel on cable. El-Fish is an electronic aquarium in which you can breed or mutate exotic fish. The propaganda claims that El-Fish creates an "unlimited number of realistic, seemingly three-dimensional fish that look and swim like real fish." I certainly hope El-Fish isn’t so realistic as to simulate the occasional tank leaks or nasty fungal epidemics my fish have experienced.

Maxis — 510/254-9700 — 510/253-3736 (fax) — [email protected]

Port Juggler from Momentum may solve serial port headaches for those of you with more serial devices than ports. With it, you can connect a peripheral to up to four Macs, or you can connect up to four serial devices to one Mac. Either way, the interesting part is that Port Juggler switches between the devices automatically, so you don’t have to do any of the switching work. It’s a great idea, considering that once you enable AppleTalk on the printer port, you’re down to a single serial port that’s usually awkward to reach.

Momentum — 808/263-0088 — 808/263-0099 (fax)

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