“Two Gentlemen of Arizona”
TWENTY $$ HERE, TWENTY $$ THERE: THE HIGH CO$T OF $TAYING CONNECTED
A Lesson in Speed
Gino Fortunato is the fastest person on a Mac I have ever seen. He whips his cursor around like a speed demon, and I have to be very insistent to get him to slow down to a pace I can comprehend.
His bewildering velocity can produce some amusing results. Once, when giving a demonstration to our local user group on the topic of which extensions and control panels can safely be eliminated from the System Folder, Gino was so quick on the mouse that he had trashed most of the “unnecessary” INITs before most members realized what had been there in the first place.
Gino fell into my life four years ago, just after he retired and moved from California to Arizona. He was a young 65-year-old member of the Phoenix MUG’s Senior SIG, which met monthly during the daytime. I attended because the general evening meetings were too crowded for me, and because I worked at night.
Last week Gino explained to me, in his husky Godfather whisper, what a good value he has with his cable modem Internet connection.
“Okay, listen, John. An ISP costs $20 per month, right? A second phone line, that’s another $20. We’re now up to $40. You with me? My high-speed cable connection is $45, only $5 more than most people pay for phone and Internet, and the cable is much, much faster. Hey, watch. I’ll download something from the Apple website, so you can see I’m telling you the truth.”
He proceeded to download a bunch of files and updaters in what seemed like a few seconds each. I was impressed, but asked:
“Right, Gino, but what if I don’t want to pay another $50 for a cable TV subscription?”
“No problem. Basic service is only $15 each month, plus I guarantee your TV reception will be better, and you will like the extra stations in the basic package.”
“Fine, so we’re talking $60 for a great Internet connection, all inclusive. Is it worth it?” I asked.
“For me, definitely. There is no such thing as being too fast!”
With that, he went browsing through a few dozen web sites, to demonstrate the speed of loading pages and graphics.
Sixty dollars is sixty dollars. When ADSL is available from the phone company, the monthly bill will also be around $60. The choice is tantalizing, but the economics are frightening. I’ll explain.
Guesstimating Your Finances
Take the typical on-line American family or individual (International readers, please excuse me; I know your costs are higher!) and turn their bank accounts upside down, shaking out all the extra cash every year:
a. $250 (more or less) for AOL or ISP fees
b. $250 for a second phone line
c.. $1,000 on average for hardware and peripherals
d. $500 for software, upgrades, removable media, games, info-tainment, and other sundry items
e. Not to mention $$$ more for cellular phone charges, pagers, phone company optional services, and other digital goodies).
Do you observe people acting like they are $1,000 – $2,000 richer (or poorer) every year, from the benefits (or costs) of on-line computing? Most people I know take the entire expense in stride. I don’t get it.
I suppose I could afford $60 every month for cable or ADSL Internet high-speed service, but I would definitely feel the pinch. To economize, Barbara and I have a single phone line, period. When one of us is on-line, the other knows the telephone is unavailable. Are we missing out on life’s great opportunities for the sake of a bit of monthly economy?
More on Gino
He has always been an early-adopter, gladly paying for the privilege of having new equipment and services, because Gino is passionate about computing and the on-line experience. With roots going back to the legendary Home Brew Computing Club, he has been a guru for dozens of Macintoshers at all levels, including me.
Gino came out of retirement to assist metro-Phoenix area Mac users with their hardware and software upgrades and maintenance, and he has stopped accepting new clients. His current setup includes a G3/266 at home, with an essential CD recorder. Custom utility, updater, and shareware CDs are carried in his Mac-doctor’s black bag, bundling a tremendous quantity of helpful software for use on his clients’ systems.
I highly recommend a CD-R for backups. I have a 2×6 recorder, which means it writes at 2x and reads (which I don’t care about) at 6x. I use “Toast” as the program, Version 3.5.5. It takes approximately 45 minutes to make an image copy, write the CD, and then verify. If you buy a 4x recorder, it will cut your time in half. I can’t justify the extra $200. I buy CD’s that have rebates and always end up paying $1.00 apiece.
Combine that with StuffIt Deluxe and you have the necessary tools.
The question is “do you want a bootable disk”? If so, then you’ll need a second drive partitioned for 650 megs (CDs are 650 megs).
If not, then no problem. I stuff four folders (named utilities, apps, data and misc.), not self-extracting. You can’t go over 650MB. Then after I write a new CD, whenever I want a file, I click on the appropriate folder, and it opens StuffIt. Then I can select the file(s) and drag them to the desktop.
My hard disk is formatted for HFS+. The major problem with burning a CD with HFS+ is, it can only be read by OS8.1 and 8.5.
I do a complete backup once a month, label them with the date and if I ever need them, they’re there.
Gino just celebrated his 70th birthday. Last year he received a time-release death sentence: diagnosis of ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, a fatal, degenerative nerve disorder. His mind, and sense of humor, are still running full-blast, but his speech, mobility, and strength are deteriorating quickly. He remains philosophical, and is surprisingly active.
This week I drove up to Scottsdale for lunch with Gino and Stuart, our mutual friend from Senior SIG. When the conversation turned to printers, I mentioned that color laser machines will soon be under $500, just like scanners are now under $100.
Gino laughed about the printer prices, implying that I was exaggerating.
“You’ll live to see it,” I shot back. And I meant it.
HAVE PERSPECTIVE AND HUMILITY WHEN AMONG GIANTS
Last year around this time Barbara, my wife, received an invitation to the home of Charlie Bachman, a recent acquaintance. She described him to me as a thoughtful, articulate, retired gentleman who had recently moved to Tucson and was an avid collector of agave plants, pronounced “ah-GAH-vay.”
Barbara and Charlie both volunteer at our local desert garden
park. He was having an open house so all the volunteers could
admire his growing collection of agaves, also known as century
plants. Being a good sport, I agreed to accompany her.
Charlie Bachman uses a pick and jackhammer to dig holes in
impenetrable desert “scree.” Into the holes go agave transplants,
along with some decomposed granite desert soil.
The day was overcast and chilly (for southern Arizona), and we
were invited inside for refreshments, served by Connie, Charlie’s
wife of 49 years. Their house is large and sprawling, full of big
rooms with picture window views of the surrounding mountains
While politely sipping juice and munching nuts, I glanced down
at a large coffee table book sitting on the coffee table. It was
entitled Wizards and their Wonders: Portraits in
Computing, by Christopher Morgan. The publisher is
Association for Computer Machinery http://www.acm.org, and the ISBN is 0-89791-960-2.
Casually looking through the contents, I recognized some familiar names: Andreessen, Berners-Lee, Cray, Dyson, Ellison, Grove, McNealy, Negroponte, Wang, and Watson, and Bachman. Yikes! On page 34, I read:
Charles (Charlie) W. Bachman has been called the “father of database management” and is the inventor of data structure diagrams and data modeling. Bachman developed the Integrated Data Store, the first successful database management system and the basis for several commercial products, including Honeywell’s IDS II, Cullinet’s IDMS, and Sperry’s DMS 1100 database management systems. He is also widely known for the Bachman diagrams used frequently in database design activities.
He is a founder of Bachman Information Systems, later renamed Cayenne Software, Inc., now merged into Sterling Software. Bachman is an ACM Turing Award Laureate (1973), and a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society (1978). He holds many U.S. and foreign patents.
Adjacent to the article is a photo of a friendly-looking geezer sitting in his greenhouse, surrounded by hanging orchid plants. He looks like the proud winner of a local garden club’s blue ribbon award.
Connie casually mentioned, “Would you like to see some of Charlie’s patents, John? His office is down the hall to your left. You are interested in computers, right?”
With windows looking out to his hillside of precious agaves, one wall of Charlie Bachman’s office is covered with patents. The opposite wall contains a very large chart, that appeared to be some sort of complex schematic diagram. I was overwhelmed.
The agave tour finished, and the house was full of snackers and their garden talk. Charlie modestly brushed off my awe with his patents, but did agree to a private audience at a later date.
In September he provided me with a lengthy explanation of his background as computer pioneer, and his future as database consultant. I admit that I was not able to digest much of what Charlie explained, because most of his heavy-duty commercial database applications are way beyond my comprehension.
Charlie currently serves as consultant to a corporation developing a new data transformation system based on a complex Bachman data model which is posted on the wall of his office. Here is a tiny portion it.
Looking over his resume, I can appreciate the inherent power and versatility of modern data modeling software. Just think about FileMaker Pro, or ClarisWorks, then consider the horsepower and ingenuity required to operate huge computers running the world’s largest corporations, and you get the idea.
One item stands out on his resume: Charlie Bachman was given the association of Computer Machinery’s Alan M. Turing Award in 1973 for pioneering work in database management systems. This is the software industry’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize. The 1973 Turing Lecture by Bachman was entitled “The Programmer as Navigator.”
I have read that lecture, delivered when Charlie was in his late 40s. It contains a potent blend of foresight and lucidity which rings true today, over 25 years later.
You can obtain more information on this living giant by doing a Web search for variations on “Charlie Bachman,” “Charles Bachman,” or “Charles W. Bachman.” His entire professional archive has been placed on the Web, all 26.25 cubic feet of it, with a outline at http://www.cbi.umn.edu/inv/bachman.htm
Take a pause to think about how much of life depends on accurate retrieval of complex, interrelated data, both for personal and commercial purposes. Then think that some breathing person created and developed the software that makes it all happen. That person is Charlie Bachman.
Now, just for fun …
I would like to recommend two more non-computer books, with info taken from http://www.amazon.com
The first is an offbeat “noir” novel, full of unsavory characters, oddball behavior, plus violence and foul language. It was written by a guest at our Thanksgiving dinner party, and makes for lively reading.
The Mortal Nuts
by Pete Hautman
List Price: $5.99
Our Price: $4.79
You Save: $1.20 (20%)
Mass Market Paperback – 336 pages (October 1997)
Pocket Books; ISBN: 0671003046
I previously recommended the paperback edition of the next book. Now a deluxe illustrated version, complete with outstanding photos, makes an excellent true-life adventure story even better.
Into Thin Air : The Illustrated Edition
by Jon Krakauer
List Price: $40.00
Our Price: $28.00
You Save: $12.00 (30%)
Hardcover – 378 pages illustrated edition (November 1998)
Random House; ISBN: 0375502807
Thanks for reading. Stay warm, remember to backup all your data, and tune in next month for an unusual feature, here in Nemo Memo.