The My Mac Interview – Matthew Caughron and Sam Caughron

This month My Mac interviews two people deeply involved with the Macintosh platform and the software that operates on it: Matthew Caughron and Sam Caughron, better known as Proteron Software, or even better yet, as the developers of Go Mac. So for all of you that were wondering where they got the idea for Go Mac, sit back, relax and find out the solution to that hidden mystery.

Matthew and SamMy Mac: Mat and Sam, welcome to My Mac. Can you give us some information on your background, how long you’ve been involved with Macs, and an idea of your work experience?

Mat: We’re proud to say that in over thirteen years of working with computers, we’ve only been involved with Macs. We’ve had our occasional brushes with Intel based machines, just never owned one. From the first MacXL a.k.a. Lisa sitting on my desk chugging along at 4 MHz, it’s been all Apple.

Sam: And as far as schooling goes, since we’ve only worked with Macs there never was the need. We took the time instead to get degrees in Liberal Arts so we could come up with a cool name like Proteron. grin

My Mac: What kind of Macs do you use?

Sam: It’s a bit of a sensitive issue around here, but since I do the bulk of development, I get to sit in front of a desktop G3/266 with 64M of RAM and a Zip drive. Right now it also has an external 9G ultra-wide drive and ATI XClaim VR video card with TV Tuner for testing, but the setup changes frequently.

Mat: I lope along on a PowerMac 7300/200 with 64M of RAM and an external Zip drive. Sam claims “developer’s prerogative” to get all the cool toys, though I was deemed worthy of a 9G ultra-wide drive.

Sam: I ought to add that, although we both use pretty fast systems, that’s been a relatively recent development. Until about 6 months ago, Mat was on a 7200/90, and before that, a IIci! So we’re sensitive to the fact that not everyone is as lucky as we are in the machine they use and make a point in development to insure that things run quickly on older Macs as well.

Mat: If you’re wondering about PowerBooks, we have a couple older ones lying around for testing but haven’t splurged yet on a newer model. Given the sleekness factor on those new G3PBs, however, we just might have to find a need for mobile power. Quam dulcis est! Development wouldn’t need that, right? More of a sales/marketing necessity I’d say. LOL

My Mac: What would you consider to be the “ideal” Mac for you?

Sam: When I become rich and famous, I’ll keep myself outfitted with the latest, fastest desktop and PowerBook. What else is there to the ideal Mac besides more speed, memory and disk space? The Mac OS is so consistent that every machine shares in the ideal to the extent that it approaches the fastest mode — assuming it has GoMac installed. grin

Mat: Sounds platonic, seems right.

My Mac: What kind of software and other hardware do you use?

Mat: I guess we already outlined some of the extra hardware, except monitors. We both have 17″ Sonys.

Sam: Who can list all the software they use? There’s a ton of stuff, shareware and commercial on all our machines. I guess most development is done with MetroWerks Code Warrior — a great product I might add — and ResEdit. Web work is done with BBEdit, Photoshop and GraphicConverter. We use FileMaker, Illustrator and Acrobat for their respective tasks, and for Internet stuff it’s the Navigator, Claris Emailer, and Fetch.

Mat: Yup.

Sam: Oh, and development couldn’t take place without MacsBug.

Mat: PalmPilots are another fave gadget around here.

My Mac: What are your favorite software programs? Why?

Mat: Favorite software? Hmmmm. It all depends on what I’m doing of course. I guess my favorites are SnapShot, Photoshop — though not its hefty price — and GraphicConverter for graphics work. Office 98 is finally a Mac-worthy piece of software from Microsoft.

Sam: I guess I would agree with Mat that favorite would have to be qualified towards what you are doing. As a developer, I probably am with nearly every other developer out there as a huge fan of Code Warrior.

My Mac: What are your favorite pieces of shareware/freeware that you would consider essential for Mac users?

GoMac PictureMat: GoMac, of course. Seriously, we here have a hard time using Macs without GoMac installed. Once you get used to that task bar there’s no going back. We also are big fans of Default Folder, and who can resist the charm of Ambrosia’s stuff?

Sam: I would add that for strict utility, Turly O’Conner’s FinderPop is great. It’s one of the few pieces of shareware I keep installed other than for testing purposes.

My Mac: What’s a typical day for you and your Macs?

Sam: No such thing as a typical day. Better to say typical night, since the best coding and website hours are generally between midnight and 3:00 AM.

My Mac: You stated that the best coding hours are generally between midnight and 3:00AM… Why?

Sam: Hmm… That’s a good question, and I’m not sure I can pinpoint the exact reason. It probably has something to do with the strange constitution of the programmer’s mind. Whatever the reason, it’s an actual fact — at least at Proteron.

Mat: I can attest to that. Fewer distractions, greater bandwith…

My Mac: How do the two of you do your work even though you’re separated by distance?

Sam: We’ve been doing collaboration work via the Internet for several years now. Lot of time on the phone… the usual.

My Mac: The most obvious question is: What gave you the idea for GoMac?

Mat: Funny you should ask. It’s hard to say what gave us the idea for a task bar on the Mac. Was it a little birdie that whispered the idea in the wind? Did it appear emblazoned in the sky after thunder and lightning shook the heavens? Was it written in blood at the bottom of a bottle of barolo? Inscribed into the rock that got stuck in my tough leather shoes? Who knows for sure… though I think it was perhaps a certain Wintel je ne c’est quoi.

Sam: Yea, I can’t remember where I got the inspiration either. Musta’ been from Mat. He’s the creative one. grin

My Mac: Can you give us the background, the present and the future of GoMac?

Mat: Sam originally had the idea of porting the task bar to the Mac while we were unemployed in Omaha and wasting time between classes. We hashed out the details in a rusted-out brown 1985 Bronco II on route to Kansas City.

Sam: The idea was straighforward enough; the real challenge was the technical side of things. The biggest breakthrough came when I was able to figure out how to reliably claim real-estate at the bottom of a monitor on the Mac OS. I think that’s the greatest feature of GoMac. It’s something Now Utilities and several other utilities have never been able to manage.

Mat: Presently GoMac is in use throughout the world. Paris, the Cayman Islands, Walburga Australia, Iceland. Even Redmond, Washington and Cupertino, California. Yes, users from both Microsoft and Apple have registered.

Sam: We estimate around 100,000 users at this point, give or take a hundred thousand. grin

Mat: GoMac has been translated into Korean, Japanese, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Norwegian, Swedish, Arabic… I think that’s all. At times the international response seems to be more favorable than the American response.

Sam: Suprisingly enough, though all the major German, French, and Japanese magazines have reviewed GoMac, Macworld here in the states has yet to even so much as mention us.

Mat: The Microsoft-favorable IDG did buy out MacUser recently. Hmm. Maybe it’s a conspiracy.

Sam: The future of GoMac? Without giving away too much, we suggest looking at the task bar on Windows 95/98 with Active Desktop.

Mat: Until Sam can get that accomplished, though, we’ll be implementing most of the requested features including windows in the task bar, a quick-launch strip, and a drag-rearrangeable start menu.

My Mac: Does GoMac and your other products provide for both of you? I’m not trying to pry — just find out if it’s worth your while. Perhaps your success may be an incentive to some of our readers who may be interested in writing shareware themselves.

Mat: Let’s put it like this: shareware is fun; if it weren’t, we wouldn’t do it. But no, GoMac et. al. don’t provide for us.

Sam: Which is really unfortunate because they probably could if people would just pay the shareware fees. Then we would have more time and resources to develop other shareware. But people don’t, so we can’t. A shareware author’s life is a beggar’s life. C’est la vie.

My Mac: What problems do you encounter as software developers?

Sam: I’m not sure software development has many “problems” besides those attending any other essentially creative job like editing or graphics design. Every day has its own unique challenges and setbacks. There is always the necessity of coming up with new ideas. Software development would probably be most unique in that these classic “problems” have a more mathematical/logical bent.

My Mac: How hard was it for you to develop GoMac?

Sam: The answer to that question is a bit tricky. I guess version 1.0 took six months of blood, sweat, and code. I mentioned before how tricky claiming real estate on the Mac OS was. Without that, it would have been straightforward. Instead, it was a bit of a nightmare sometimes. But I woke up one day and was working on a sweet product.

LiteSwitch was only a few weeks of work, since the coding was already mostly done in GoMac.

My Mac: Can you provide us with some background on your other software item… FMPro Tuner?

FileMaker Icon

Mat: Sure, although most of the history is provided on our
FMPro Tuner page
FMPro Tuner was developed in response to a request for
help from William Croft at Stanford University.

Bill had noted a slowdown in FileMaker Pro’s performance when it dropped into the background. He rightfully assumed that this could be fixed and sent out a letter to several Mac software developers including Proteron. Sam saw the letter, poked around a bit, decided the project was doable and FMPro Tuner was born.

My Mac: What else do you have in store for the Mac public? New projects, products, etc.?

Mat: We do have several projects in the works and intend to branch out a little. We like to keep development under wraps so that our press releases will truly be interesting though. Sorry. I can say that GoMac 2.0 is a big priority, though, as you can imagine. To pique your curiousity, we’ve been playing around with PalmPilots and printer driver technology.

Lite Switch Picture

Sam: For those addicted to keyboard switching, there is
a good chance that all of the tab-switching features will
be removed from GoMac and put into LiteSwitch, which
as you know is currently our freeware good-will offering
to the Macintosh community.

My Mac: Your website speaks of investment in the ideas… Is Proteron considering going public on the market? (It wouldn’t hurt to get in on the ground floor 🙂 )

Sam: Not at this time.

Mat: Not yet, anyways. In the past six months we have bootstrapped ourselves into sufficient venture capital that market growth will be our primary focus for the coming year. This is an important step towards the company going public.

My Mac: What tips or recommendations would you have for new developers or those interested in bringing new items to the Mac community?

Sam: Go for it. This is one very friendly and responsive community of computer users.

My Mac: What changes would you make to the Mac OS?

Sam: Protected memory.

Mat: It looks like 8.5 has accomplished much of what we want, the only thing I’d really like to see added is flawless operation on Intel processors — but that’s an impossible dream.

My Mac: What are your feelings for the future of the Mac and the Mac OS? Where would you like to see the Mac OS go?

Sam: I think OS X was a great strategic move for Apple. What they did is fantastic. They won’t lose a single user since the OS will continue to be backward compatible — granted with limitation. But they will also be able to bring the greatest features of Rhapsody to the mainstream Mac ASAP. That’s just great work.

Mat: IMHO, it is tragic that MacOS X won’t work on the Intel platform. Apple’s insistence on proprietary hardware really works against it. I guess that’s where I’d like to see the Mac OS go… for its own good.

My Mac: Any final words of encouragement or thoughts for the Mac and PC users out there?

Mat: Stay tuned. We’re attempting to bring to the Macintosh all of the relevant features in the task bar and start menu from Windows 98. When we pull this off, there will be great rejoicing and shouting in the streets. The best part of it is that you won’t have to pay $189 retail for an OS which is primarily a bug fix release. ; )

Another item of general interest: Mac users should in general encourage direct Internet sales. It used to be that you could save money by avoiding the high-overhead retailers and ordering mail order. Now, however, it is generally better to order software and hardware straight from the source since the mail order houses demand so much from software companies in terms of buying space in the catalogs. Apple’s online store sets a great example. Look at companies like LinuxPPC or Bare Bones software. Buy what you can direct on the Net, save money, and encourage the software authors directly with your purchases.

We are seriously considering taking GoMac commercial and want to let our past and future customers know that they will always have the best prices on our products straight from the Proteron website.

My Mac: Thanks guys!

For those of you who haven’t tried out GoMac, what are you waiting for? Visit Mat and Sam’s website at Download GoMac and try it out!

Russ Walkowich


Websites mentioned:

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