“The Software Q/D/S/V Standard”
The past month has been a busy one. I have installed and used four new commercial software titles. Not being an early-adopter, this spree has been unusually energetic, and I have learned quite a bit in the process.
ALADDIN DESKTOP MAGICIAN plays a trick on Nemo
I receive PR announcements from Aladdin Systemshttp://www.aladdinsys.com whenever a new product is released. Their new Aladdin Desktop Magician sounded intriguing, so I requested it.
Let me quote from issue #447 of TidBITS http://www.tidbits.com, as reported by Adam C. Engst:
Aladdin’s Desktop Magician Saws Desktops in Half
Is your Mac’s desktop as cluttered as your real desktop? If so, check out the new Aladdin Desktop Magician [ADM] from Aladdin Systems. It enables you to create project-based sets of files and folders that can be moved to or from the desktop at any time. Plus, Aladdin Desktop Magician can restore the positions of icons on your desktop, which is handy if you change resolutions, fiddle with a video card, or boot from a hard disk that doesn’t know about your monitor setup.
Other uses of Aladdin Desktop Magician include different desktops for multiple users and improved privacy by hiding sensitive items. Aladdin Desktop Magician costs $20; a free 30-day demo is available as a 476K download.
On a recent Saturday morning I had a few extra minutes while waiting for my wife to finish her daily swim before I got into our tiny pool. Sitting at the desk in my swimsuit, I installed ADM quickly and easily, and started following the directions, which I had printed out from the enclosed 15-page PDF document. I *thought* I then moved a few files and folders from my desktop into a new Desktop Storage £ Folder, but I couldn’t immediately locate it.
I realized that I had installed ADM directly from the floppy Aladdin sent me, rather than by copying the installation folder to my hard drive, as was suggested. Perhaps by doing the install with all my extensions loaded, something was wrong. Fortunately, Desktop Manager comes with a de-installation program.
I uninstalled everything I had just installed, then emptied the trash. Getting ready to do an authorized install, after closing all my Windows I notice that my desktop looked a bit empty. Where were my active items, and Barbara’s college course folder? I broke into a heavy anxiety sweat, which soaked me immediately, including my Speedo.
Upon careful examination, I realized that yes, Desktop Manager had successfully grabbed the few items residing on the desktop, but I hadn’t immediately noticed, because my AOL startup window was covering that portion of the screen. When I emptied the trash I threw out the most important current items on our hard drive. AAAARRGHZTYI$&*!
I don’t think this product is one I need at the moment, because I normally keep several top-level folder Windows open all the time, with very little on the desktop. By coincidence, I had just put the missing files onto the desktop to do a bit of housekeeping, and now they were gone, apparently forever.
Norton Utilities couldn’t recover the erased data, so I took a deep breath and looked through my Zip disks for recently backed-up versions of the stuff that had been fried. In less than an hour everything was where it should be, and I was mentally exhausted. The swim I then had was a reward for a mixture of good judgment and survival in the face of total stupidity.
What I learned:
I spoke with Peter Thomas, ADM product manager, and he asked me to convey to your readers that basically, what happened was user error. The manual outlines how to install ADM and also describes the Desktop Storage folder warning upon de-installation. Just make sure next time to read the manual before installing (or uninstalling) software.
To paraphrase Peter:
It is recommended that Aladdin Desktop Magician be installed while all unnecessary extensions are disabled. The user’s manual outlines several ways to do this, one being to copy the Aladdin Desktop Magician installer to their hard drive. Then restart with extensions off (by holding down the shift key during start-up). Once installation is complete, just restart as usual and your extensions will automatically be enabled.
Also, if a user chooses to uninstall Aladdin Desktop Magician, during the de-installation process a search will be performed for any Desktop Storage folders. If one is found, the installer will alert you. The uninstaller should do nothing to the Desktop Storage folders if they are not empty. It is recommended that the user abort the de-installation process, relaunch ADM and Show the items in the Desktop Storage folder.
In your case John, you must not have noticed the warning and continued with de-installation. Then, when you emptied the Trash, your files were lost. We are very glad you were able to retrieve your files!!!
I plead guilty to all of the above, Nicole, and have learned my lesson well. Thanks to Aladdin for supporting our publication and the Macintosh platform.
SUNDIAL brings Hawaii and California to you
A few days after receiving the first PR message from Aladdin, they sent an endorsement for Sundial, from John Neil Associates http:// www.jna.com. I contacted John Neil, who kindly sent me the disks and Press Kit, which explained:
Sundial displays time-lapse landscape photography on the computer desktop. Volume I features breathtaking QuickTime movies of California landscapes that slowly change over the course of the day. With a choice of ten different scenes, Sundial transports the computer user outdoors, offering a fun and natural way to tell time. Volume II brings ten scenes of the Hawaiian Islands to computer users tired of humdrum static desktop patterns.
Barbara has been bugging me for years to “bring back After Dark,” after I removed it, due to numerous conflicts and crashes. Instead, I have been using freeware Darkside, which offers a stable plain, dark screen. Perhaps Sundial would be a colorful compromise.
The installer parks a Sundial Control Panel and Extension in the System Folder. The sequential images can run either from CD or hard drive, if you have enough disk space. I have a tiny hard disk, so I ran Sundial from the CD.
It works: “A special algorithm in the program synchronizes the Sundial desktop to the current time of day [in five-minute increments], allowing users to gage the day’s progress by simply glancing at the landscape on the screen. Early risers or late-night office workers enjoy onscreen sunrises and sunsets at the exact same time as the actual outside events, at any time of year or location on the Earth.”
We had just returned from California, so I chose a scene from the Hawaii CD, and, just like that, it was gorgeous “real time” at Hana Bay. The Sundial scene becomes the desktop, and does indeed shift incrementally from sunrise to sunset into night time. I checked the box for Sundial to switch to a new scene upon Restart, which I like quite a bit.
The pictures are beautiful, and the software appears to be stable. Occasionally, Sundial warns that there is a transition conflict with another application during one of the scene shifts, but nothing serious ever happened.
Best of all, just like Aladdin Desktop Manager, you can test drive Sundial from a demo download, and the cost for each Sundial package is very reasonable.
DELORME STREET ATLAS USA brings ’em home alive
The snail solicitation arrived just in time last month. I wanted to purchase the virus protection software Virex, my friend Greg needs to learn to touch-type, and I keep getting lost in Tucson and on vacation.
Nova Development Corporation http://www.novadevcorp.com was offering Virex and Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, plus several other titles for very good prices, with Street Atlas USA http://www.delorme.com included for free with purchase of Virex, plus a complimentary “Mac OS” mouse pad. I don’t normally order software this way, but I decided to try, given their 30-day money-back guarantee.
The mouse pad, typing program, and Street Atlas have arrived. Virex is back-ordered, and will appear soon.
I popped Street Atlas USA into my CD-ROM drive, and by following the straightforward user’s booklet was quickly looking up addresses all over the country. My home street is a bit difficult to find on a conventional map, but Street Atlas brought me there in seconds.
Just then the phone rang. Barbara was on the other side of Tucson, and she was attempting to locate a house that was on a street off the boundaries of her Arizona Automobile Club map. I said “Your timing is perfect,” found the street, and sent her on her way.
Here is a section of my neighborhood, with part of the Street Atlas USA toolbar included:
My experience with this program is limited, but it appears to do exactly what I need with speed and efficiency. I appreciate that the free version 3.0 CD is not the most recent edition, or as current as some of the Web-based maps claim to be, but it serves my requirements.
TECHTOOL PRO and the rank amateur
After reading in My Mac and elsewhere about TechTool Pro 2, I ordered and received my copy from MicroMat http://www.micromat.com. When I ran TTP2 for the first time, I couldn’t get it to do what I expected, and received some error messages.
My hard disk is in good shape, thanks to Norton Disk Doctor http://www.symantec.com, but I wanted to start putting TTP2 through its paces. My epal, Paul Martin, advised me:
Boot from the TTPro2 CD by restarting and holding down the C key. It should open to the Standard interface with 4 areas checked. I usually just run the Disks check and undo the other 3. The rest is self explanatory. It’s slower than Norton, but supposed to be more effective.
The program wants to check the CD too and you have to uncheck all of the items. That’s awkward and unnecessary. Also the fact that you have to uncheck all of the tests instead of just the disk is silly. I think that they are working on that but I’m not sure. I’ve had fewer problems with my computer since using it.
TTPro2 may not boot your G3 if you get one. It won’t boot my daughter’s iMac because Apple put one of those damn computer specific enablers in the iMac. They said I can get a new copy when the fix comes in if I send them my present CD with a self addressed CD sized envelope with .70+ cents postage. They will let me know when it is available.
I tried what Paul suggested, and still couldn’t get TechTool to scan my drive completely, so I wrote to MicroMat’s technical support email address, and before they had time to reply, Paul wrote back to say:
Check this out! Micromat has released an update to TTPro2 that includes an Optimization feature and a much simpler interface for novice users (similar to Norton). They have also fixed the other problems that I mentioned too.
It now allows you to select which drives/disks to examine, and it has an auto fix feature also so that you can go do something else while it runs. The update to 2.1.1 is at Micromat’s site. Details about how to get a new CD with the fixes and feature enhancements is included with the update. I’m sending you a copy of the info from their web site.
What followed was a lengthy explanation of the improvements to TechTool Pro 2, and how to obtain both download and CD versions. I immediately called MicroMat and ordered the CD. I will report on the improved version in a future column.
I did receive an email message from MicroMat a few hours later, essentially confirming what Paul had told me. This company is responsive, and is dedicated to providing hard-working software with speedy tech support.
THIS STORY HAS A MORALI have devised the “Q/D/S/V Standard” for all new software, as follows:
Q = QUALITY, including ease of installation, performance, stability, and general happy relationship with everything on my system;
D = DOCUMENTATION, both printed and electronic, plus appropriate website material;
S = SUPPORT, in the form of email, phone, and web updates;
V = VALUE, which includes both original cost and subsequent expenses.
How do each of the preceding four examples of software measure up?
I was in too much of a hurry when I installed Aladdin Desktop Manager, and I did not sufficiently read its PDF documentation, causing me to make a stupid mistake that cost me time and anxiety. It probably is a perfectly good product once the basics are learned. Consequently, I can’t assess its quality, but it is good value, and Aladdin is known for providing first-rate tech support. Another My Mac reviewer will be evaluating ADM in detail soon.
Sundial feels like a quality piece of work. The documentation is adequate, and not much support will be required, I believe. Value is impressive.
Street Atlas USA was amazing value, being free. The documentation helped me appreciate the quality of the maps, and I don’t think I will need any support.
TechTool Pro 2 will, I expect, turn out to be a fine application. If it performs as promised, its quality and value will be beneficial. The written documentation is less than perfect, but with prompt tech support, the application should be easy to use.
I welcome your comments on this new Software Q/D/S/V Standard.
And now another word from LENNEM, my dad. Some of you may recall his provocative guest essay during the summer. Well, he’s back, this time discussing AOL4 and other mischief.
Subject: The one hundred year old Online Boy
To: John Nemerovski, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi John .. From your father .. From Chicago to Tucson.
For your readers, let me again say that I am still a beginner .. a learner .. who does not have the computing skills that most of your readers possess. I use a privately made PC .. IBM compatible. I use Windows 3.11 and have a 486 DX 66. So obviously I do not use Windows 95 or 98 or Pentium or Mac. I have a 2500 MB hard drive and 16MB RAM.
My recent troubles began when I went to upgrade AOL from version 3.0 to 4.0 .. at the same time Citibank said that the Y2K problem made my current Citibank software unusable and I had to load the new Citibank version 6.0. I did not realize the extent of the trouble that I was about to encounter.
When I had previously upgraded from AOL 2.5 to AOL 3.0 I changed my browser from Netscape to Microsoft Explorer. When I downloaded the new Citibank software for version 6.0 .. the Citibank software used Netscape and it overrode the favorite places sites on my AOL.
I called tech support at Citibank and they took me step by dreadful step. In their process .. I managed to make Citibank software work on my Windows 3.11 but AOL became inoperative.
Then I had to get my recent Colorado backup tape and reinstall the old AOL 3.0 with all of my favorite places and address book places and names .. sites and E mail addresses. Then I was encouraged to upgrade AOL to 4.0.
I did the upgrade by pressing on the upgrade icon but AOL said that I had “insufficient memory” to make this upgrade work. I said that I had 16 MB but AOL said that even though I had 16 MB of memory .. in this process AOL/Windows would only let me use 8 MB even though I had 16 MB.
Thus I had to start over again .. and re shuffle the space on my six hard drive partitions to make space for the new 4.0. Well, that was done .. and I now have 4.0 running. I love it.
You said that the MAC version would not be ready for several weeks. Well, .. and particularly for the novice .. of which I am member .. it is a major improvement for me.
I am age 73 years old, and I aged 27 years during all of this anguish .. so I felt like a hundred year old online grandpa… but now that I have AOL 4.0 working I feel like a teenager again.
There are many enhancements .. such as new drop down menus, and once I get the hang of what is where, I can move among the sites with ease. The address book is better .. it is alphabetized and the edit function allows me to edit or change and see what I have and what changes I am making .. this is a great improvement.
I can now go directly to web sites that are included in email messages. The new AOL makes working with favorite places much easier and faster. Also, when I am at favorite places I can highlight the “name” and it gives me the full title and also the full web address. In addition, I can go to “my home page” with one key stroke.
Please remind the Mac users that I am a novice and don’t know much about what I am doing but I am having a great time doing it. My friend and mentor, J. R. Brimmer, is my guru and genius and he guides me in every aspect of my learning and correcting mistakes and going forward in my computing career.
If any of your readers have any comments on all of this I am Leonard Nemerovski .. age 73 .. in Illinois .. and my email address is email@example.com. I have my own web page located at http://www.geocities.com/Paris/1288. Close the Geo cities page .. then wait for my home page to load.
Thanks, Dad! You do sound more like a teenager every day.