Washington Apple Pi

A Community of Apple iPad, iPhone and Mac Users

October General Meeting

by Lawrence I. Charters, Vice President, Macintosh

This was the biggest General Meeting in the past several years, in complexity and number of vendors if not crowd size. Claris brought a Centris 610, Tektronix brought a photo-quality dye sublimation color printer, Microtek brought a ScanMaker IISP color scanner (and the mysterious "vase of a thousand spills"), Pi member Dennis Dimick brought a Hi-Fidelity VHS video tape recorder, and Proxima brought an 8mm video tape player and an Ovation projection system which blasted images from everything up onto the screen for all to see. It was great: other than a 13" color monitor belonging to the Pi, all the equipment was provided, and set up, by the vendors or by Pi volunteers.
QuickTime Clips
After the usual announcements and question and answer session, the meeting began with the display of a QuickTime clip created by Pi member Dennis Dimick. The clip (available for download on the TCS, the Pi's computer bulletin board) is a fast-paced three-dimensional tour of Crater Lake, Oregon, a spectacular lake formed in the caldera of Mt. Mazama. This (theoretically) extinct volcano in the Cascade Mountains exploded thousands of years ago, and since that time snow and rain have filled in the crater, creating a lake six miles long, five miles wide and a third of a mile deep. While it may not be quite the same as visiting Crater Lake National Park, viewing the QuickTime clip is certainly cheaper, and zooming across the lake at high speed via your computer offers some unique thrills, and the FAA doesn't complain, either.
Dennis then showed a videotape of three QuickTime clips, the first by fellow Pi member Stuart Bonwit. Stuart is a recent convert to the Macintosh, but he clearly isn't wasting any time: his clip, titled General Lavine, features "Star Wars" inspired 3D credits rolling off into infinity, and a mechanical man perfectly synchronized to classical music. Except for the music, everything was created on the Macintosh, from the rolling credits to the mechanical man, rendered piece by piece and assembled, then animated. An abbreviated version of this clip (minus the music and rolling credits) is on the TCS.
Next was one of Dennis' own compositions, a QuickTime presentation featuring some brilliant still photos he took on a trip to Peru, synchronized to Peruvian music. This particular clip won an award for best documentary QuickTime clip in a recent competition and was published on CD-ROM. (For those who attended, did you notice the baby sleeping in the pile of colorful Indian blankets? While all the photos were extraordinary, this one was my favorite.)
The third clip, also by Dennis, was done as an experiment in adding motion to still photos. Using his own photographs of people traveling, he added pan and zoom effects, plus a nice New Age sound track, to create a striking portrait of modern travel.
These clips inspired a blizzard of questions, which Dennis cheerfully answered. Unfortunately, the questions threatened to delay the other presentations, and had to be cut off. I wish to publicly apologize to Dennis for the sound during these presentations; I wasn't prepared to amplify sound, so most of the audience probably couldn't appreciate the pains Dennis and Stuart took to synchronize their carefully selected music with their imagery.
I also didn't appreciate how many people were interested in QuickTime, so I'll let you in on a secret: the February General Meeting will feature the founder of MacroMedia, Marc Canter. Maybe we can prepare a few things in the interim to dazzle him when he comes to dazzle us?
Omnivorous Projection
Bonnie Allen of Proxima Corporation (301-565-9330) gave the first vendor demonstration. Over the past couple years, Bonnie and Proxima have graciously loaned the Pi some outstanding projection equipment, allowing General Meeting presentations to be viewed by a large audience with great clarity and minimal setup.
And no, we're not saying this just out of gratitude. For the September meeting, Microsoft flew in an audio-visual specialist who spent two hours setting up a 200 pound, 3-gun video projection unit, used it to project a videotape and Mac output (with some difficulty switching between the two), and people complained it was fuzzy. Bonnie spent roughly three minutes setting up a self-contained Proxima Ovation panel-projector, and there were no complaints of any sort about image clarity, and switching from different computers and videotape formats was instantaneous.
Bonnie also revealed some features we'd never discovered, such as: the self-contained unit she brought (I don't have the model number since all the brochures were snatched up) can display NTSC, SECAM or PAL video formats; has an international power supply that can handle 50 or 60 Hz, 100 to 220 volts; can project Mac and MS-DOS/Windows video; and has built-in stereo speakers. Bonnie also demonstrated Cyclops, a built-in "eye" that allows the Proxima to "see" its own projected image. She then used a laser pointer to play solitaire on her Windows laptop.
If this wasn't enough, she revealed a secret use for the high-tech laser pointer: they make great cat toys. Cats will chase the red spot around the house for hours, and never wonder why they can't catch it.
Scanning Crayons
Scott Kaye of Microtek (703-527-5605) could have simply showed his scanner, but scanners are essentially boring rectangular boxes, so he did something more useful: he gave a mini-seminar on how to use a scanner. This sparked a surprising number of questions, and one mini-lecture from a Pi member on the physics of color and optics.
There are many things you can do with a scanner (such as having it read text into a computer through optical character recognition), but Scott concentrated on scanning color objects. Even in this context, there are many different options; do you want an image to be used on the screen? printed in black on a white sheet of paper? printed on a transparency? or actually printed in color on paper? Each use has its own set of rules for getting the best possible image with the least possible waste ("waste" in this sense meaning overly large scan files and long processing time).
As scanning subjects, Scott used a jumble formed from crayons (nice, vivid, easily recognized colors), spools of thread (more vivid colors), money (everyone knows what money is supposed to look like), a picture of his infant son (of course) and some live, if somewhat battered, flowers. Scott had just purchased the flowers, complete with an inexpensive (cheap! cheap!) plastic vase, and the vase wasn't heavy enough to hold them upright. So the flowers fell over -- again, and again, and again. When he finally tossed them on the glass to scan, everyone involved in the presentation sighed in relief, and the flowers looked surprisingly fresh. Scott, of course, was more impressed with how his son looked.
Graphics with Impact
Julie Visnich (703-761-2449; visnich@applelink.apple.com) used the image of Scott's son in her presentation of ClarisImpact. Aside from a name guaranteed to trigger any spelling or grammar checker, ClarisImpact has a lot going for it: a remarkably complete word processor and outliner, very flexible organization chart tool, a nifty flowchart tool (capable of doing business flow charts or computer flow charts), a timeline chart tool, a very nice calendar tool, plus tools for cranking out bar charts, pie charts, line charts and almost any other kind of chart you might want.
If this wasn't enough, ClarisImpact also can do "slide show" presentations, or you can use it to print paper documents or make transparencies. A library of pre-defined styles can help the haggard user whip out a professional presentation with little effort, or you can create your own styles. It has a huge clipart library of 2,500 or so images, and can import and export a wide variety of formats, ranging from EPSF (Encapsulated PostScript) to CGM (a common MS-DOS graphics standard). While she didn't mention it, Claris is also working on a Windows version, opening up the option of using the same presentation on both Macs and Intel machines.
Julie's presentation was very quick, polished, and focused. I was impressed, and promised not to remind anyone of her troubles trying to do a presentation on a PowerBook a couple years ago. My lips are sealed.
Printing Rainbows
The original idea for October's meeting came from Tektronix. Once upon a time, Tektronix was known for their display terminals and test gear, but over the past decade they've made a new name for themselves as the preeminent manufacturer of high-quality color printers. The October meeting was designed to show how easy and effortlessly you can create a modern business presentation, detailing all the steps necessary to create a color document, from scanning art to editing text to finally printing transparencies and other color output. But the final step, printing color output, ran into difficulties.
Joe Pekala, representing Tektronix (301-590-7523), graciously allowed the other vendors to go first, and they used up virtually all the time. With his presentation already in trouble due to time constraints, he then ran into another barrier: his overhead projector wasn't working right. Instead of projecting a clear image on the screen, most of the light was bouncing off the ceiling. His nice, beautifully composed color transparencies (produced on a Tektronix printer, of course) looked dark and blurry when projected on the screen.
The dark slides, blurry images, darkened room, and early Saturday hour proved fatal: the audience quickly started nodding off. Joe gamely tried to press on, but soon gave it up, and afterwards apologized for a "crummy" demo. Fully aware of the difficulties he faced, I declined to accept the apology; Joe really is an excellent presenter, and Tektronix printers really are outstanding.
Joe's presentation outlined the various problems faced in trying to reproduce accurate color on paper (or transparency film). A photo of an infant doesn't look exactly like the infant, and a scan of the photo doesn't look quite like the photo, and there are also differences between the screen image of the scan and a printed image of the scan. Tektronix has adopted an eclectic approach to addressing these problems: they produce color printers that use every one of the major techniques, from dry toner to dye sublimation to inkjet to solid ink, and do their very best to make sure that their printers, in each category, are the best.
This is an interesting market. Color printing has traditionally been very expensive, and Tektronix became a leader by concentrating, and dominating, the market for low-cost ($10,000 and under) color printers. About the only thing they hadn't tried was dry-toner printers, so this fall Xerox and Hewlett-Packard introduced 300 dpi (dots per inch) dry-toner color printers. Tektronix, however, was hardly sleeping: they responded almost immediately with their own dry-toner printer, only theirs was faster and printed at 600 dpi. Isn't capitalism wonderful?
The meeting concluded with a large selection of drawing prizes. In addition, David Sloan of Micro Products, Inc. (703-912-6903), had some special offers for Pi members, such as Tektronix color printers (starting at $2640), Microtek scanners (the featured ScanMaker IISP at $723), and Proxima projection systems (such as the Ovation 810 projection panel for $3435).
November 1994
November's General Meeting will be a week early, on November 19, to avoid any conflicts with Thanksgiving. Casady & Greene, a software company with a history as long as the Mac's, will be showing some of their newest games and utilities. Be prepared to be both entertained and informed.
Closing the meeting will be a full-fledged demonstration of the Internet. Since most people don't have a direct link to the Internet, the demo will be done with the same tools you are likely to use: a high-speed modem and a Macintosh. Mosaic, Gopher, Fetch and other strange sounding tools will be shown. This has been the number one demo request for the year, so come early and get a good seat.
December 1994
Roughly a thousand people will descend on the winter edition of the Pi's Computer Garage Sale, shopping for bargains, gossip and information. To be held December 10, the Garage Sale will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Allentown Mall, 6200 Branch Avenue, Camp Springs, Maryland. For those of you who attended the December 1993 Garage Sale, yes, this is the same mall, but not the same store.
New feature: for a modest donation to the Pi, you can have your Macintosh go through a checkup to confirm health or, possibly, diagnose existing or future problems. A team of recognized Mac gurus has volunteered to perform the honors.
1995 Meeting Dates
General Meetings for 1995 are scheduled for the following dates (all the fourth Saturday of the month). Mark your calendars (or, better yet, put them in your electronic calendars to give you advance notice):
Jan. 28, 1995: Medical House Call: Interactive Home Medical Guide and Symptom Analysis.
Feb. 25, 1995: the incomparable Marc Canter, showing Meet MediaBand.
Mar. 25, 1995: vendor to be named later.
Apr. 22, 1995: vendor to be named later.
May 27, 1995: vendor to be named later, plus two draft picks.
Drawing winners
Data Storage Marketing mouse pad: Allen Beach
PC World mouse pad: Tom Witte
Microsoft FoxPro mouse pad: Jan Bailey, Earl Satterfield, Jim Torrence
Rush Computer Rental's ball, Asante "Hitchhiker's Guide to Networking" towel: Ken Clare
The Printed Word (Microsoft Press): Dorcas Adkins
This is the Mac; It's Supposed to be Fun (Peachpit Press): Edward Sutter
The Macintosh Bible Guide to System 7.1 (Peachpit Press): John Tuohry
Getting Started With Microsoft Word for the Apple Macintosh (Microsoft Press): Ralph Lingeman
The Apple Macintosh Book (Microsoft Press): William Jensen
Working With Word 5.1 (Microsoft Press): Thomas Bernes
Everything You Wanted to Know About the Mac (Hayden): Donald Eckstein
PageMaker 4: An Easy Desk Reference (Peachpit Press): Jennifer Jacobson
Menu Planner (Ohio Distinctive Software; courtesy Nancy Seferian): John Quill
Team NFL CD-ROM: H. Ronald Green
SilverLining (La Cie): Victor Lawrence Taylor
Titleist golf balls (courtesy Tektronix): Tom Bouchard
ClarisImpact (Claris): Charles Stancil
Apple Centris 610: courtesy Claris Corporation
Proxima Ovation LCD projector: courtesy Proxima Corporation
Microtek Scanner: courtesy Microtek Lab, Inc.
Tektronix color dye sublimation printer: courtesy Tektronix, Inc.
Setup and worrying: Julie Visnich, Joe Pekala, Scott Kaye, Bonnie Allen, Dennis Dimick
Question & Answer Help: Tom Witte

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

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