MacWorld Boston 95
|Column Tag:||Macworld Expo
Hot Items in Boston
A quest for reasons to attend _the Boston Expo
By Eric Gundrum, Berkeley, CA
Once again Macworld Expo has come and gone from Boston. This years Expo was marked by the best weather in years: no rain and much less humidity. If the Expo air-conditioning broke again this year, no one seemed to notice. This Expo seemed to be abuzz with even more Internet related tools than ever before. Also, a few bits of new hardware have seen the light of day. But first, a word on Developer Central.
As in January, MacTech Magazine teamed up with Apple to bring us Developer Central. For those who didnt see it in San Francisco, Developer Central is one giant booth dedicated to Macintosh developer tools vendors. This is the most convenient place to get the latest scoop on all those tools our livelihoods depend upon. As you walk into the booth you can immediately sense a change in the atmosphere. This place isnt for just any Macintosh enthusiast. This is for the people who make Macintosh their life. Just by hanging out in Developer Central you can be sure to meet a great many Macintosh programmers, from the old timers to the newly rising stars.
Bostons Developer Central sported the usual MacTech Magazine Mail Order Store and APDAs Catalog Store. Each had some great discounts for many of the tools being demonstrated. This is one of the few places where it actually pays to buy products at the show instead of waiting to get home.
There was a strong Apple presence showing off the many SDKs Apple now has available. Unfortunately Dell Computer was missing this time around. (Last January Dell had barricaded their booth with sand bags to protect themselves from what they though would be an onslaught of Macintosh developers.) But Apple took up the slack, inviting Windows developers to join the evolution with A Starter Kit for Windows Developers. This starter kit contained interesting promotional material about the many opportunities available to those who develop for the Macintosh platform, as well as instructions for signing up as a Macintosh developer. Its good to see Apple evangelizing Mac development once again.
Apple gave away many copies of the OpenDoc Developer Release 3 CD-ROM. We havent had the chance to explore the details, but this CD is packed with tools and information including version 1.0d9 of the OpenDoc Development Framework, 53 MB of third-party part editors and 30 mb of sample code.
Apple was also giving a first look at their new Set Top Box. This little piece of hardware offers a point and click interface to programming your television set. It uses MPEG technology with a proprietary video input signal to provide hundreds of video channels, movie on demand, games, and just about anything else you would want from a multimedia engine. Note, this was in Developer Central implying Apple wants developers to write software for it. There is no word yet on when the Set Top Box will be released, but stay tuned to this channel for more information.
Symantec and Metrowerks were each present in force. Symantec is pushing ahead with their plug-in architecture for new compilers in Symantec Developers Advantage 4, planned for release in October. Metrowerks is hot on their heels with the next CodeWarrior release due in September. Unfortunately, we wont be getting the famed CodeWarrior 2.0 in this next release, but maybe by January.
Pictorious, Inc., makers of Prograph CPX, were showing Peregrine, the fruits of their latest development effort. Peregrine takes the visual editing environment of Prograph to the next level, making it even easier to develop fully functioned client/server applications by just dragging the mouse. Peregrine provides full access to many popular third party SQL database servers, including Everywares Butler which was also shown in Developer Central. Like Prograph, Peregrine is fully extensible, but the included objects are so comprehensive you might never have to write a single line of code again.
Allegiant Technologies, Inc. just released the cross-platform SuperCard 2.5. This latest version has many new features including support for 24-bit displays, enhanced control of QuickTime playback, and support for QuickTime VR. There is a new interface for plug-in transitions, creating an opportunity for those who enjoy developing plug-ins. This new version now allows the player to be freely distributed. Those of you developing multimedia titles may want to consider SuperCard 2.5.
Also on the scripting front, Main Event was showing the newly released Scripter 1.0.1. Scripter is a full featured AppleScript development environment. It supports step tracing script execution, watching and changing script variables, a new way of looking at AppleScript dictionaries, and a number of shortcut-style tools to make developing scripts easier. This maintenance release addresses many of the early problems reported online.
Digitool, Inc. jumped on the Internet bandwagon with Mac CL-HTTP, a Web server based on their Macintosh Common Lisp 3.0 product. Digitool once again demonstrates the viability of using Macintosh Common Lisp for serious application development.
And speaking of the Internet, we cant leave Developer Central without first taking a look at MacTech Magazines new Web Site. Some of the pages were still under construction at the Expo, but this site is quickly shaping up to be a great Macintosh programming resource. At www.mactech.com you can peruse the Mail Order Store, even place an order; you can search the archive of all MacTech articles since 1984; you can talk back to the magazine staff and much more.
Surf Shop in Boston
Moving out of Developer Central and into the Apple Pavilion, we were inundated with Internet related products, yet not much seemed very innovative. The word processors are all sporting HTML converters. The communications tool vendors all have their Internet starter kits.
Unlike the San Francisco Expo, Apples Boston Pavilion is part of the main show floor rather than crammed into a side room. The Pavilion seemed larger than ever, which was a good thing. As always it was crowded, but this time the focus was on Internet tools.
Apple seemed to have nearly thirty percent of their floor space dedicated to Internet related products. And the most popular among those was newcomer Ceneca Communications PageMill and SiteMill. PageMill is a WYSIWYG HTML editor. Finally we have a tool to edit our Web pages in the Macintosh way. PageMill makes heavy use of drag and drop to add graphics, text and build forms. SiteMill is a complete Web server management application. It makes it easy to build links between pages and sites. SiteMill not only verifies all the links in your Web site, but it will also correct errors and reconnects dead links with a minimal amount of effort. These tools, expected to ship in late September, can save countless hours of Web site management.
Apple also dedicated a significant bit of Pavilion space to education developers and, believe it or not, to game developers. It is a welcome message that Apple is willing to lend a helping hand in these two needy Macintosh markets.
On the way back to the Bayside Expo Center from a quick trip to the World Trade Center, we couldnt help but notice Iomega and Syquest duking it out again. Iomega had plastered the side of a building with two huge banners advertising the Jaz and Zip drives. Syquest, not to be beaten, managed to raise an even larger banner of their own right under the Bayside Expo sign. Luckily the two companies were kept far from each other in the hall. They are both sporting competing technologies to take over the removable media market. When these new $100 gigabyte cartridge drives ship early next year we can all benefit from even deeper price reductions in the hard drive market.
Out on the floor of the Expo there was not much exciting new software. Once again Connectix managed to crowd the aisles with people lining up to buy their latest release. Speed Doubler seemed to have people lining up for miles. Even developers (who had been beta testers) were talking about how much faster their Macintoshes ran with Speed Doubler installed. This product may prove to be as ingenious as was RAM Doubler. As for incompatibilities, well, no one is complaining yet.
Snapping to It
Hardware seemed to take the show this year, specifically photographic hardware. Long ago, before there was Macintosh, many people would spend countless hours playing with their photography equipment as their favorite hobby. Now photography is making inroads into the Macintosh market, and doing so from the inside.
Casio offered the most interesting tool in their QV-10 LCD digital camera. The QV-10 is the same size and shape as a typical 35mm instamatic camera. It differs in that the lens is positioned on a swivel (similar to some video cameras) and the back of the camera shows a realtime 2 by 3 inch image on a color LCD display. With this camera you just point it at the target of your picture; when you see the image you want on the screen, press the button to capture it. It holds 96 pictures in JPEG format and features a variety of editing tools to adjust the zoom, lighting, contrast, and most important, delete pictures. Also, this little baby can output NTSC so you can bore all your friends with an instant slide show. The drawbacks of this camera: it does not accept any external lenses and is priced a bit higher than the QuickTake.
For those of you looking to share your digital pictures with your non-computerized friends, there were a variety of high quality color printers producing high quality photograph-sized output. FotoFun by Fargo Electronics is a seven pound dye-sublimation printer producing 4 by 6 inch output. It is very hard to tell the difference between a photograph and the output of this printer. For only $400 and one dollar a print you can print your own photographs instantly. Options include printing to postcards and coffee mugs.
Knowing that no one of this readership has ever had trouble programming a VCR, it is still worth noting a new video service soon to be launched. VideoGuide, Inc. has announced the VideoGuide TV service. VideoGuide uses radio pager technology to retrieve and display on your TV the latest television program schedules for your area. This menu driven system lets you use a remote to choose the programs you want to watch or record with your VCR. The service costs only a few dollars a month. For a few dollars more, you can have news and sports analysis also. All that is required is their $100 set top box. This doesnt seem to offer any new opportunities to Macintosh programmers, but it might free some time from helping other members of the household figure out how to make the VCR do the right thing.
And since were on the subject of neat toys for geeks, the prize for the most eccentric geek toy has to go to Papyrus for their Indy and Nascar race cars. Papyrus has published award winning race car simulator software for the PC market for some time. They are making their move into the Macintosh market with the pending release of IndyCar II Racing and Nascar Racing. They also have a modem-based multi-player game service to be available soon. But those are just more games, right? Right. The cool part of Papyrus game is the hardware. For a mere $10,000 you can sit in your very own miniature authentic Indy car. (They supply the computer, you supply the video display.) This car has fully functional steering wheel, pedals and other controls. It is also equipped with true-to-life sound. This is the perfect gift for any Macintosh programming team that has just completed a horrendous development schedule. Cant afford that price tag? Well, the software only version should retail for under $100.