Washington Apple Pi

A Community of Apple iPad, iPhone and Mac Users

May General Meeting

by Lawrence I. Charters, Vice President, Macintosh

May 21, 1994 was an interesting day in the Washington metropolitan region. It was the first genuinely warm, dry day all year, and hundreds of thousands of people flooded all the roads heading somewhere, anywhere, as long as it was outside. Somewhere between a quarter and a half million of these people headed for Andrews Air Force Base and the annual Armed Forces Day Open House, with the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels flight squadron showing their sister services what real flying was all about. Arlington National Cemetery attracted a huge crowd of people for no particular reason at all, apparently in anticipation of the Monday funeral of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.
And at the Pi's monthly General Meeting, hardly anyone showed up. Even one of the exhibitors was absent.
While it is tempting to blame it all on the sunny weather, a more likely cause would be "too many variables." Like most organizations, the Pi does best when meeting times, dates and locations don't change. So confusion was expected in March when we moved the location, for two months, from Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) to Burning Tree Elementary School, an entire state away.
In May, we did an even better job: we moved the meeting back to NOVA, crossing the Potomac once more. And we also change the meeting day, from the fourth Saturday to the third Saturday, in order to avoid conflicts with Memorial Day. We thought the changes were adequately publicized, but obviously we were wrong.
So we had our smallest turnout of the year (71 people), and one of the exhibitors got confused by the date shuffle and arrived a week later. "I thought the parking lot looked a little too empty," is how he put it.
Despite the problems, Ares Software did a splendid job of making the meeting a success. Rob Friedman, Chairman and General Manager of Ares' OEM division, demonstrated an astonishing new package, FontChameleon, that has some explosive possibilities. Retailing for under $200, this single package has the ability to produce scalable fonts, in either PostScript Type 1 or TrueType flavors, that look and act like some 220 of the most popular commercial fonts.
While this alone would be noteworthy, FontChameleon's real power comes through the ability to customize the fonts. Do you really like Garamond Condensed, but wish the x-height was a bit shorter, to present an Art Deco kind of look? FontChameleon can create such a variation by just moving a slider bar. Want a very thin (or very bold) version of Trump Mediaeval? Move another slider bar. Would you like a version of Avant Garde that sweeps backward, say to indicate speed? Not a problem -- another slider bar can take care of that.
If you don't happen to know what x-height, oblique, tracking, and other font terms mean, that isn't really a problem. A preview window shows you immediately what you are doing, allowing you to modify fonts almost endlessly without, literally, having the slightest idea what you are doing.
Even more astonishing is the ability to blend fonts to create entirely new fonts. You can blend two entire font families, merging Bembo with News Gothic, say, to any degree you want, or merge just parts of characters. For example, say you like the Q in New Century Schoolbook, and wish there were one just like it in Times. Blend the two fonts together, with emphasis on the Q, and you'll have a new, completely original font.
FontChameleon can also read font metric files. If you are using one flavor of Bodoni, and someone gives you a file that contains another flavor of Bodoni, FontChameleon can read the font metric of the other Bodoni and create a font to match.
There are, of course, limitations. Right now FontChameleon does not know how to handle true italics, or script fonts, or calligraphic fonts. But it has no trouble at all with serif and sans-serif fonts, plain, bold, oblique, and bold oblique fonts, condense fonts, expanded fonts, and endless combinations of these and other characteristics.
Aside from the inexpensive price, the other big surprise was the size: the entire package, including metrics for 220 fonts, tutorials, the application itself, and the obligatory "Read Me" file, takes up less than two megabytes of disk space, and runs comfortably in System 7 with just one and a half megabytes of RAM.
It is a shame the turnout was so light; FontChameleon is a genuinely original concept. Friedman was also a great presenter, low-key and deliberately non-technical, but with a keen appreciation of the package and the potential it has for revolutionizing not only desktop publishing but "electronic distribution" of documents.
Friedman, incidentally, was one of the founders of Bitstream, the pioneering electronic font foundry. He obviously hasn't given up the pioneering spirit.
June 1994
By the time this is printed, the Washington Apple Pi Semi-Annual Computer Garage Sale (Summer Release, June 11, 1994) will be over. Thousands of pieces of computer hardware and software, plus other items having nothing to do with computers, will have changed hands. Just as much activity having nothing to do with hardware or software will have taken place, too, ranging from membership sales to an all-day question and answer session. At least half a dozen people will complain "all this stuff" won't fit in their car, and ask for help. The garage sale volunteers will hold their annual debate: shall we have pizza, or Chinese?
July 1994
Global Village is scheduled for the July 23 General Meeting, showing off their new telecommunications products. Joining them will be Microsoft's Home division, demonstrating their latest consumer offerings (CD-ROMs, games and applications).
August 1994
MacWorld Boston will be held August 2 to 5. This gigantic trade show has a number of attractions: great bargains, the chance to see new products, and the chance to sample Boston's history and restaurants. If you volunteer to work at the Washington Apple Pi booth, you'll also get an opportunity to sit down -- a treat after walking miles and miles through two exhibition halls.
The General Meeting on August 27 will be hosted by the Games SIG (Special Interest Group). Traditionally, this meeting is not limited to just Macs; expect to see Apple II, IIgs, and maybe even MS-DOS/Windows games. There is also a chance we'll have a surprise presentation that has nothing to do with games at all.
September 1994
Washington Apple Pi will be moving in September. If you have a big truck, a strong back, and some packing boxes, or any combination of these, we can save Big Bucks by moving ourselves. We are moving to save money on rent, and every dime we spend on renovating our new quarters and moving the office will help save even more money. Since no computer expertise is required, it would be Real Nice if we saw something other than the usual band of volunteers.
One thing that is not moving is the General Meeting which, like the May, July and August meetings, is at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale. Provided they finish writing it in time, Microsoft will be on hand to show off Microsoft Word 6.0 and Microsoft Excel 5.0. Power Macintosh owners, in particular, are keeping their fingers crossed, but both these applications have been long, long anticipated.
Drawing Winners
Maze Wars (Callisto): Bill Wydro
BMUG PD-ROM (BMUG): Thomas R. Reynders
BMUG PD-ROM (BMUG): Charles Stancil
Ares FontMonger (Ares): Robert Pagelsen
Ares FontChameleon (Ares): Ann Aiken
Apple Macintosh IIci: donated by Falcon Microsystems
Microsoft PowerPoint 3.0: donated by Microsoft Corporation
Bernoulli 150 drive: loan courtesy Iomega Corporation
Proxima Ovation projection system: loan courtesy Proxima Corporation
Lounging TCS penguin: artwork by Nancy Seferian
Silver Spring Metro penguins: photography by Dennis Dimick
Dr. Fun cartoons: from the Internet via Jon Hardis and the TCS
Setup and worrying: Lorin Evans, Beth Medlin, Bill Wydro
Novice Corner, Question & Answer Help: Tom Witte

Send meeting comments to: lcharters@tcs.wap.org.

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