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Sep 95 Viewpoint
Volume Number:11
Issue Number:9
Column Tag:Viewpoint

Viewpoint

By Scott T Boyd, Editor-at-Large

What!? You missed MacHack again? What are we going to do with you? Oh, well, this tenth anniversary of MacHack had much to offer for about 300 Macintosh hackers from all over the map.

Some people go for the sessions. Some people go for the caffeine. Some people go for the amazing things that happen when they deprive their body of sleep for 72 hours. Nobody goes for the food! And this year nobody went for the luxurious accommodations of the Southfield, Michigan, Ramada (who needs air conditioning, anyway?).

Nevertheless, this event ranks among the few unmissable events of the year for those who just can’t get enough of Mac programming. Why? The people, of course. Nowhere else can you find such a favorable ratio of hackers to marketeers. It’s one of the few places where marketing, Windows, and other holy cows come under constant and brutal attack, much to the delight of the crowd.

The Ninth Annual MacHax™ MacHack Best Hack Contest (hosted each year by Greg Marriott and yours truly) attracts a wildly-diverse set of entries, and accounts for the bleary-eyed, caffeine-pumped, sleep-deprived crew of entrants who show their wares to a rabid, merciless crowd of their peers. The show starts at midnight, and follows two days of crazed hacking.

I’m often asked how one goes about winning. Strangely, I get a disapproving look (or small amounts of cash) when I suggest bribing the judges. I’ve never won (I’d just get accused of cheating, anyway), so instead I’ll offer a few tips on how to have a great time at MacHack.

I wandered around the machine room at 2AM, seeing if I could interest anyone in a Web-hack idea I’d been mulling over. I didn’t know whether I’d find someone to work with on this hack, or on another hack, but 2AM is a good time to find the right kind of person. Many people were already working on their hacks, but I met a guy I’d never met before, Grant Neufeld. Strangely, though, I’d been to his web site <http://arpp1.carleton.ca/grant/>. He was working on a CGI shell - it was perfect for hosting my portion of the hack, and he liked my idea.

We started working right away. He prepared the CGI shell, and I hacked out some code to play with QuickTime’s compression manager and the (unpublished) Layer Manager. We changed designs about a thousand times, and finally got something mostly working. At that point, we decided that public relations was the next most important thing to address, so we put together a killer About box, picked a cool name (Whatson?), and Grant made the icon.

Instead of getting our demo rehearsed, we decided to add another feature (the real killer feature), and found ourselves up against the deadline that I myself had imposed. What to do? Ha! I changed the rules, and moved the start of the Hack Show to 12:30! (Everyone accused me of it anyway, and it makes a better story if I just give in and say so, in spite of the fact that the Hack Show equipment really wasn’t ready, honest!)

How did it turn out? We didn’t win (something about running out of the room in the middle of demonstrating the hack at the Hack Show, but that’s a whole ’nuther story). In retrospect, if we’d really wanted to win, we probably should have gone ahead and made t-shirts. That would have made all the difference, no doubt. Nevertheless, we had a blast. In the process of madly throwing together the bits and pieces of this hack, we met and got help from roughly a dozen people, we faked up a fun photo with Photoshop, and we dabbled in several areas of the Macintosh toolbox we hadn’t played with before, all the while relishing the camaraderie, chaos, and caffeine.

Convinced? Want to enjoy the conference, at least vicariously? The list of winners and some of the hacks are at <http://www.machack.com/>. Want to try out Whatson? <http://www.hax.com/whatson.acgi>.

From the “Where’s the Beef?” Department

Microsoft’s reputation for out-marketing Macintosh prevails in the consumer arena. Microsoft holds the title in the developer arenaas well. For example, Microsoft continued their full frontal assault at MacHack, both with their Windows95 preconference, and with ample support and cosponsoring of the machine room and Internet connection. On the other hand, Apple, once famous for insanely-great developer relations, has recently fared poorly in Macintosh developers’ hearts and minds, losing ground as Microsoft presses on with aggressive developer relations efforts. This year’s strong sponsorship of MacHack stands as a clear and welcome exception.

What’s a Macintosh zealot to do? Well, never fear. Hope springs eternal. In what might be Apple’s answer to Microsoft’s challenge, Apple recently brought Guy Kawasaki back on board as an Apple Fellow. His mission? To “represent developer issues and perspectives to Apple”, among other things.

In that vein, he has started up a mailing list designed for the Macintosh faithful. He wants list participants to help him understand what developers need and want.

If you can handle a healthy dose of e-mail, join the list by sending a message to <mailto: semper.fi@thing1.info.apple.com> with the body of the message (not the subject line) containing subscribe YourRealName. Once you’re on the list, you can send mail to the same address. You can also send mail directly to Guy at <mailto: MacWay@aol.com>

Food For Thought

“Can one Guy get ahead of [Microsoft’s] James Plamondon? He’s pretty far out there!”

- Name withheld

“You know you’re really having fun when you find yourself falling asleep at ‘breakfast.’”

- Brad Kollmyer, bradk@vitalsoft.com

“It wasn’t broken air conditioning at the MacHack Windows preconference - it was the Mac programmers burning in Hell ”

- Anonymous

 
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