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Reviews: Mac OS X training from TackyShirt

Volume Number: 19 (2003)
Issue Number: 9
Column Tag: Reviews

Reviews: Mac OS X training from TackyShirt

Training that doesn't suck, really.

by Michael R. Harvey

Their tag line is, "because training and fun are not mutually exclusive." For most training materials out there, however, that is not the case. Then came Sam Crutsinger, President and "Media Kingpin" of TackyShirt Inc., a company he formed to produce quality technical education that is also entertaining. Says Crutsinger, "This is the 21st century. We should be able to present education in a way that keeps people engaged and gets the point across. I hate to read. [David] Pogues books are great, but I still have to sit down and read the thing to absorb it." Add to that his many years of experience in video editing and production, and a desire to do it different, and better than anyone else, and you have the ingredients for an interesting recipe.

The core idea behind the training was to make it educational and fun. In other words, don't bore the viewer into a coma. So, to start, they chose to keep each of the segments under fifteen minutes (based on educational research published in a study from NYU). Next find some talent. Crutsinger called on some of the most well known, as well as some of the most knowledgeable, folks in the Mac community. Andy Ihnatko, long time columnist for Macworld magazine, Bo LeVitus, author of many Mac related books, Shawn King, host and Executive Producer of Your Mac Life (an internet based radio show), and John Welch, a regular presenter at MacWorld Expos, and columnist for MacTech magazine. He got these four names together, put them in front of sets not seen before in any technical training, and for two weeks committed to tape pretty much everything they uttered about the Mac, and Mac OS X. And, it seems, some things not quite Mac related (there are a few Easter Eggs on the DVD, one of which is outtakes of some behind the scenes shenanigans). Then came the hard part, editing that mess down to usable, and useful, nuggets. A daunting task when you take into account how much detail went into every segment.

The first fruit of this labor is entitled Mac OS X Disc 1: The Basics. Yeah, pretty dull title. Fortunately, the dullness ends there. On the disc is nearly four hours of fun education. In rotating pairs, Shawn, John, Andy, and Bob take turns presenting some aspect of Mac OS X to the new user. They are accompanied by picture in picture computer screen shots, animations, and active desktop screens that show exactly the what, where, and how of the topic they are discussing. And it is a discussion. They are not lecturing to an invisible audience, but rather seem to be carrying on a conversation with each other, and the viewer. Of course, there are other characters that constantly attempt to steal the spot light including chatting set pieces, and icons run amok, to name a few. They do not, however, distract from the learning. They actually seem to enhance it.

This is a basics learning tool, though. What can advanced users get out of it? Well, we watched it. We thought it would bore us to death. This is, after all, the basics. We, and you, are almost certainly well beyond that. Surprisingly, there are a few tidbits of knowledge to be had. There is always that one little thing you never noticed before that will help make you more productive, and this training may just show it to you. Putting that aside for the moment, this product is aimed at those who are starting from square one. So, we showed it to a couple of new Mac OS X users. One who was completely new to Macs, and a switcher from OS 9. Our newbie enjoyed it immensely, and got a lot out of the DVD. He felt though, that some knowledge was presumed in the material, and said if he had some experience with OS 9, he would have gotten more from the training. Our OS 9 upgrade liked it quite a bit, too. Her main complaint was that Andy Ihnatko talked too fast, and lost her at some points.

Our next question was how can this material be useful to MacTech readers? By in large, we figure the folks reading this review would not get their investment out of it. However, every one of us knows at least one person that really, really, needs this DVD. Maybe that friend, colleague, family member will stop calling every other day if they watch it. For some of us, this training could help at the job. Consultants, and administrators with clients and users in need of updated training will all find Tackyshirts material invaluable.

All is not lost for the advanced user, however. This is Disc 1 of what will ultimately be a four disc set. No date has been set for subsequent releases, but follow on discs will cover topics such as troubleshooting, and backup strategies (Disc 2), intermediate level training, and popular applications (Disc 3). Disc 4 is where most advanced users will get the real goods. This disc is scheduled to cover under-the-hood kinds of topics, teaching the Unix underpinnings, and advanced capabilities of Mac OS X.

TackyShirt Presents Mac OS X Disc 1: The Basics is currently available only from the company at their web site. Disc 1 is $39.99, plus $4.95 shipping per item (international shipping is $9.90 per item). Future installments are slated to be the same price. You can even get yourself one of their t-shirts sporting the cool TackyShirt logo for $10.85 (one buck more for us XXL types).

One final warning. When you do sit down to watch this, don't have any other plans. You may think you're just going to watch one segment real quick, but you are just lying to yourself. This stuff is digital crack, and before you realize it, you'll have lost two hours to it. Don't have a wedding or a funeral to go to, because you will be late, and end up cheesing off the others, especially if you are the guest of honor at either of those events.

Michael R. Harvey


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