Vol. 2 No. 6

February, 2003



iToon on Net Addicts

Laptop Burn w/ iToon

New! Bends & Trends

Applebarf: The X Factor






The written word is still the most powerful tool in commerce. A writing is the memorialization of the intent of the parties to a contract, a writer to a vision, a student to memory of knowledge. Letters are symbols; symbols have meaning. The meaning of “get it in writing” is the cornerstone of societal commerce.

To make sure another “gets it,” a receipt is often requested or a confirmation obtained by the sender. With certified mail costing more than $4.65 per letter, and fax confirmations as good as the telephone line connection, the transmittal of documents is still a thorny problem.

It used to be that one had a five day window to receive, digest and respond to a business letter. Then overnight couriers compressed the response time down to two days. Then the fax machine further compressed the response time down to hours. And now, email and its attachments have compressed the demanded response time to minutes. But an office has to sort, collect and manipulate all these forms of communication and distribution. It is an uphill struggle. Finding, filing, archiving and retrieving is becoming a constant battle of incompatiability.

There is one tool of promise in the struggle: portable document format (pdf).

Adobe was the early proponent of the document format, which is an open file structure. Adobe has been merging pdf file format creation into its entire product line as well as offering stand alone distiller and reader programs. The beauty of pdf is that it takes any image, graphic or text document and converts it into a universally readable file.

I have been using pdf files for a long time. It was the best bridge between clients in Windows and Mac from the compression of email attachments from the internet service providers. Word processing documents at times get messed up and will not open, even if specially saved in the appropriate format.

After several unanswered emails to Adobe, for the status of a Mac version of Capture, its pdf processing software for high volume scanners, I felt it was going to be a lost cause. However, by accident, with the purchase of a new HP scanner, there was a built in save feature to pdf. Problem solved. We can scan in a fourteen page document effortlessly into a pdf format with good resolution without creating tiff files and distilling the images into grainy pdfs.

There are still minor problems with the pdf attachment. Several people have problems opening them. Usually the problem exists that the file name is too long, or is missing the pdf extension. That usually solves their Windows problem. Otherwise, the size of the pdf file is too big that it gets corrupted in transit. Much like lost letter in the mail, or a fax machine that runs out of paper with no file memory.

The pdf file format is the foundation for creating the electronic office, and the electronic file folder. For archives, a digital copy is far more valuable than banker boxes stacked to the warehouse ceiling. It will be used for email attachments, and archive purposes.

It is also the perfect file format for document distribution. Government forms in pdf format are easy to download, easy to open. Those forms with writable text fields add productivity to use.

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Laptop Burn

The smell from the first class cabin is that of steamed loins. The searing heat of the corporate laptops can cooking the flesh of the privileged, high maintenance, type A workers. Their laptops are more guarded then their children; it is their lifeline to the mothership-- their work is all backed up on a constantly crashing hard disk.

Who would have thought that personal stereo players and headphones would be so popular that commercial radio would become second tier? Personal cellphone addiction has lead to the demise of the street curb public payphone. Cheap PDAs have eliminated the need for printed personal pocket calendars. Now, personal DVD players, a single use luxury item, are selling well. The personal digital lifestyle appears to be the only consumer electronic growth industry.

The “my electronic world” of the me-generation is converging in the laptop. Or it could with some simple modifications. The premise is that an individual will want to have everything they own at their immediate disposal; an instant gratification response like Pavlov's dog. A top of the line laptop in the near future can house the following: personal calendar, personal agenda, resume, internet browser, intranet browser, CD-RW, DVD player, audio player, built-in cell phone, wireless cards, wireless internet connection, seamless internet instant messaging, gaming 3D graphics card, the processing power of a mini-mainframe....

One one piece missing from downloading one's entire life into a titanium shell (to create a new species of mankind) is an integrated cellphone. The pleasure of having one self's encapsulated in one electronic device is ultra-appealing to the borg-in-waiting. With new 17 inch screens that allow an aircraft carrier sized key space, a clever designer could squeeze in a small keypad and a retractable antenna from the side of the screen display.

The great advantage would be that all you would have to do is take one device instead of four when you are on the road. You can have your spreadsheet running in the background while watching the latest kung fu DVD movie while on a cross continental flight; then when landing at the terminal, sit down and cell the work, client and home without dropping quarters into a disconnected payphone.

The great disadvantage besides the utter dependence that one would have to a mechanical device that is created to be obsolete is that all the great information, convenience, coolness is directly related to battery life. Battery technology is the key to the integrated digital hub. To run everything, you would need a micro nuclear power plant nestled just above important body parts. At times, laptops generate enough heat that it appears that there is a core melt cresting through your groin, but this would be planting a hot meteor in the sensitive sweet spot. So, it is heat deflection technology that is the ultimate key to complete integration.



But the Orwellian crowd may have one last concern. If everything you have is placed in a single central depository computer, what happens when that computer begins to act up; rebel against you; will you seamless lifestyle survive the crash?

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Internet radio for small broadcasters, like college radio stations, got the final news on how much a music license will cost. It is tied either directly to revenue, or if that is too small, a percentage of the expenses of running the station. In other words, not-for-profit broadcasting will be paying the same as their for-profit broadcasters. The license fee schedule will set back the growth of this new medium.

Last month, the Internet turned twenty years old. Domain name registrations have fallen and the net fever has cooled according to the Big Media players. Fine, let the small craftsmen continue to develop their trade instead of being processed into an assembly line industrial internet culture.


Applebarf: The X Factor

Kicking and screaming to a new OS is the true fear and loathing to the para-IT professional. It was the end of the year capital expenditure rush at work. It was an opportunity not a need to upgrade some desktop computers from the aqua blue iMacs to the Aqua OS lamps of the new iMacs. The concern was that in two weeks Apple's Macworld Expo would introduce new products. The buzz was that desktop systems should be revamped, but the order had to be in before New Year's Eve for tax purposes. We went with the old menu items. (The Expo introduced only new Powerbooks.)

When the boxes arrived, the new iLamps looked impressive. The screens were crystal clear. The chrome adjustable arm was bold and functional. The first oddity was the fact that the power on switch was in the backside of the half globe with no “on” button on the keyboard. The white and clear keyboard was superior to the old iMac black keyed ones.

The boot appeared slow. Instead of the black and white spinning wheel, there was a colored circle which appeared not to move much. Then the Mac OS X operating system charged to life with its aqua environment. Afraid to do a side by side boot comparison with side by side machines, we let the log-in progress at its own speed.

The Macintosh operating system pioneered graphic user interface. For years, it had the same look and feel: the desktop, the Apple menu, the File Menu, the Edit menu. Those comfort command pull-downs were standardized into every Mac program. Consistency in desktop operation is the key to increased productivity. Mac OS X has some of the same menu flags, except that most basic commands have been shifted to other menus. The dock on the bottom replaces the desktop program alias organization. It appears that the new operations centers around not a single desktop launch site but layers of subcommands. One has to scroll through several menus to get to the proper menu selections for a simple act of printing an envelope. It is the added complexity of the simple ways of doing things in the past programs which is grating on the cervical spine hairs. My nephew conceded that the new system had many Windoze attributes. Windows is the arsenic in the rebellious Mac kingdom. We diehard Mac users do not like change of the pure Mac mantra, especially if it is a drift towards the MS Evil Empire.

One of the reasons the purchase was completed now was that these machines were loaded with both OS 9 and System 9.0. We have many legacy programs that will only run on Mac OS 9 so it was important to maintain that compatibility. The machine is smart enough to sense which operating system to use, but the conversion to OS 9 still takes another boot time.

Factor X has many transparent features which seem to take a life of their own, like reconfiguring network user access without any apparent reason; or sending copies of files to the iDisk instead of the hard disk which is confusing enough when BOTH have folders labelled Documents. Then it has two networks, a local and Appletalk. Different nodes appear or disappear from new machine to new machine when accessing older machines. Maybe that is why at Macworld Expo, Woz said he was still firmly rooted in OS 9.

For now, those are henpecking items. For now. It will take some time to get used to the new quirks. There will be a dual brain function as half the office will still be running dedicated older machines. OS X is extremely stable. The new iMacs have fast processing power. And they look cool. The blue iMacs generated a great deal of commentary from clients in the past. We expect even more comments with these new designs.

Disclosure: Author is an Apple shareholder.

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