Taking Stock of WallStreet
I recently purchased one of the new G3-based ‘WallStreet’ Powerbooks from macbase.com, a mail order site I found at maccentral.com. I bought the machine for a couple of hundred dollars less than Apple’s Web price and the box came sealed from Apple with a standard Apple Warranty inside. The company was efficient, reliable, and delivered the goods on time.
My initial impressions of this portable suggested adjectives like stunning, gorgeous, state-of-the-art, and even (dare I say) sensual. Unfortunately, there’s so much hype in the computer press that you could probably read the same description of the latest Compaq or Toshiba. Therefore, I’ll try to be a little more specific.
I’m impressed by the speed (250 MHz with 1 Mb back cache), the large and beautiful screen, the full-sized and responsive keyboard, the built-in 56K modem, the wealth of ports including S-Video and SVGA, the hot swappable batteries, 20 speed CD-ROM Drive, floppy drive, PCMCIA slots, and even the documentation that includes a basic manual and a troubleshooting guide. The WallStreet Powerbooks are, however, much more than the sums of their impressive parts. These are classy machines that are designed with style and taste and are a pleasure to use.
The model I purchased has a 13.1-inch screen, but the display seems larger than the 15-inch display on my desktop machine. The larger screen means that I can work in Word with a 200% view and still see the whole horizontal page layout. For someone my age, that means that I don’t have to search around for reading glasses every time I use my portable.
On the negative side (alas, there’s always something), a fully loaded system with a battery and disk drive or CD ROM weighs in excess of 7 pounds and is a pain to carry around for any significant length of time. In addition, the built-in stereo speakers sound tinny at best.
Macintosh print magazines are going through a rough patch. That was apparent to most of us when MacUser and Macworld merged and MacWeek waffled out of the Mac market. What’s not so obvious, perhaps, is the decline of the editorial content of the print magazines that remain.
Apparently, because of Apple’s recent fall in market share and corresponding decline in developer support, there’s not enough advertising revenue to maintain the kind of quality editorial content for which we’ve become accustomed. Though this might seem like a subjective judgement on my part, don’t take my word for it. Compare a 3 or 4 year old issue of Macworld or MacUser with any of today’s magazines and you’ll find more editorial content, more in-depth coverage of relevant issues, more detailed ‘how-to’ articles, and much more sophisticated reviews of major hardware and software developments.
Today’s magazines, on the other hand, seem to rely on the latest ‘politically correct soundbyte’ to attract readers. I define ‘politically correct sound byte’ as a news story that on the surface appears like real news but is tacitly blessed by Apple and could easily be confused with an Apple press release.
Let’s look at a few examples. Two recent magazines include a cover story on ‘The Future of the Mac OS Revealed,’ and the iMac. Inside the former, there’s much ado about Apple’s new OS X and guess what… the new OS features pre-emptive multitasking, multi-threading, protected memory, a mach kernel, and the like, along with all of the ‘coolest’ features of the Mac OS. Gee… does that sound like a new approach? Somewhat like Copland, perhaps?
Mac OS X will provide Mac users with a modern operating system and the writer notes that “modern operating systems provide experiences that Mac users simply can’t get: Systems never crash. User interfaces are always responsive, even when you’ve got several programs working in the background. Applications launch in a heartbeat. And most important, users can see and do several things at once.” Care to point out a modern operating system? Certainly not Windows NT which crashes in a heartbeat or OS2 which is responsive to only a limited set of users or UNIX which still sports an interface born in nerd hell.
Coverage of the iMac meanwhile seems limited to Apple’s hardware press releases. There’s no discussion of how or why the machine will have an impact. The whole tenor of the articles could have been written by Apple Public Relations. I’d like to see some of the print magazine quality staff turned loose on the home and education markets. What are the real advantages of the iMac? Why is it every educator’s dream machine? How can one be used in the home? What software will maximize the use of this machine in various environments?
Appearing in other recent issues of popular Mac magazines were a review of Deneba’s Canvas in about a half a page (500 words) and another of Microsoft Office in about 1000 words. Both reviews were woefully inadequate as neither scratched the surface of these impressive packages.
This type of token coverage is a disservice to the readers as well as Deneba and Microsoft. One of the many advantages of writing for My Mac Magazine is that there are no editorial limits (within reason) and so we can afford to cover software in the kind of depth it warrants.
Though my review of Word 98 (see the reviews section) is certainly not all-inclusive, the only limitations I worked with were self-imposed and based on what I decided was relevant to My Mac readers. I wasn’t forced to write a sham and punctuate it with an arbitrary mouse rating.
Newer’s Older G3 Upgrade
When Newer Technology announced a G3 processor upgrade for the first generation PowerPCs, I immediately ordered one for my desktop machine (PPC 8100) and another for my son’s college desktop (6100). The company was also kind enough to send me a beta unit to evaluate for this column.
The board I received didn’t live up to expectations. My first, rather disconcerting discovery, was its incompatibility with my Apple AV video board. Apparently, Apple soldered brackets on some of the original AV boards, which precluded installation with Newer’s side board. When I closely examined the beta documentation, I noticed the company admitted this incompatibility and accepted no liability in the event a user tried to jury rig these cards together.
The second and perhaps more significant problem I experienced was the failure of my system to recognize Newer’s backside cache. I spent considerable time and energy troubleshooting this problem with the Newer’s help, but the cache never did work. Newer first suggested that I remove the original on-board cache. I tried; it wouldn’t budge; and I feared damaging my system. I got back to Newer and was advised to ‘take that sucker out.’ I finally applied a little force and got it out, but still no joy. Newer then suggested I might have an extension conflict. I responded by turning off all extensions except Newer’s—and still no cache. Finally, the company suggested that either the beta unit was defective or there was something unique about my 8100.
Newer should be more up front about any incompatibility with the original Apple AV card and should have done more to diagnose my problem activating the backside cache. Meanwhile, I have cancelled my order for the Newer G3 boards and suggest you inquire further before you purchase this upgrade.
The game of the month is Titanic: Adventure out of Time by CyberFlix, Inc.. I would normally hesitate to purchase a title so closely coordinated with a hit film—particularly after the film has already come and gone, but thought I’d give it a look on my new portable. I was pleasantly surprised to encounter an adventure that includes slick graphics, good sound, solvable but clever puzzles, and enough in-game clues to keep the action moving and interesting. The software comes on two CDs and works both in Mac and Windows environments.
Your role in the game is as Carson, a former British Intelligence Agent, disgraced and cashiered from the service and living in a flat in wartime Britain. You explore your flat and are soon interrupted by the explosion of a German bomb, which transports you through time and space to a cabin on the Titanic. You have several secret missions to accomplish that if successful will change the fate of the ship and the world.
The Titanic is a complex ship and the maze you are required to navigate is challenging. One of the hooks that keeps me interested is the presence of Smethells, a personal steward, who can always be summoned from your room to provide advice and keeps the game moving. Another is an interactive map of the ship that allows you to move from deck to deck without wasting time looking for obscure staircases or passageways. All in all, a well-done and exciting adventure recommended for devotees of the genre.
Newer Technology, Inc. Titanic: Adventure out of Time
4828 W. Irving Street $49.99
Wichita, KS 67209 CyberFlix, Inc.
Voice: 316 943 0222 4 Market Square
FAX: 316 943 0555 Knoxville, TN 37902
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org <http://www.cyberflix.com>