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MacTech at Macworld 2007

Volume Number: 23 (2007)
Issue Number: 02
Column Tag: Show Report

MacTech at Macworld 2007

a gathering not quite like any other

By Edward Marczak

Macworld Expo brings together Mac devotees from all over the world. It's a gathering not quite like any other. Of course, each one is unique to itself, and Macworld 2007 was definitely its own show. Particularly, this wasn't quite the 'iPodWorld' of last year.

It's almost not possible to start this off any other way than talking about Apple's iPhone. Unfortunately, it's also the element that we have the least real information on. Even different Apple employees that we met gave us different answers on what the capabilities will be and what we will see in a finished product. So, for now, it's mostly conjecture, outside of Apple's official product page (http://www.apple.com/iphone/). The reality is that the demo was great, and I'm sure we all want one!

Of course, Apple TV debuted, along with a new version of the Apple Airport Extreme base station. Both devices sport draft-level 802.11n connectivity for 108MB/s and better performance through interference — both things that I'd like to see! The new Airport base station also brings to the table the ability to share a USB hard drive. We didn't have the opportunity to play with the setup features, so we don't know the security implications that this brings. Since this really is targeted to home or very small workgroups, this may not be too much of an issue, and an improvement over what those groups are doing now. If you haven't seen it, check out the new look, too (no more UFO-chic).

For us tech types, the extra IT Conference is a blessing. This year, for the first time, Schoun Regan was responsible for all of its content and gathering the speakers. The interchange among fellow techies can't be overstated. Computing is really so broad now that, one simply cannot know it all. There's always some tidbit to pick up, and this is a great environment in which to do so. The presentations that I saw were fantastic, and my only disappointment was that there wasn't enough time for me to attend all of them! However, there was one particular presentation that stood out in many of our minds.

Amit Singh, head of Macintosh Engineering at Google, used his presentation on file systems to announce that Google had ported all of the FUSE libraries from Linux and was making them available under OS X! FUSE was one of those projects that had enough Linux-specific code that made it a tough project for most people to consider porting to another platform. Not for Amit and his team at Google, though. Why does this excite us, and what is FUSE? FUSE is a "Filesystem in USEr space." Basically, it's a way to abstract complex filesystems, or, to create your own file system. As an example, there's a GMail plug-in for FUSE that allows you to mount your GMail account as a disk (file system). The Finder just sees it as another thing that you can read and write to. Guess what else? There's an NTFS plug-in, too, meaning that we'll now be able to read and write to NTFS partitions right from the Finder (or shell, of course) — see this month's "Camping in OS X" to understand the NTFS issue a little better. There's a host of file systems already available for FUSE. Look for an article in next month's MacTech for more details on FUSE.

Going back though 2006's MacTech 25, which included Schoun Regan and Amit Singh, we saw many others in that list factor pretty heavily into the week. They were speakers, coordinators, or developers releasing new products. It's nice to see this group do well professionally and personally. Go back through that list, and keep your ears open for announcements bearing their names.

Speaking of names, we're all going to need to get used to the name change to "Apple." While it makes sense, it just seems a little too short...but we can cope. Everyone we spoke to during the week kept calm about it, and understood that this did not mean that the Macintosh was going to disappear! In fact, it's exciting to think about all of the interface possibilities with all of the new things that will potentially come out of Apple, Inc.

Of course, there was the show floor to walk around and look at shiny new goods. Both Parallels and VMWare were on hand, demonstrating their competing products (check out our cover story noting the entrance of VMWare into the Mac market). Prosoft Engineering, a long-time Mac company had their existing product line available, plus a new product called Jax. Despite being an "iPod" product, it's really more of an iTunes product that the iPod benefits from by being able to sync with iTunes. Jax has some cool built-in features — like auto-grab lyrics, new visualizers and "copy video from the web" — but also offers an open architecture, that allows developers to come up with their own creative ideas. Microsoft had a chance to show off features in its upcoming Office 2008 for Mac. Office 2008 has the distinction of 'killing off' VBA on the Mac side. So, it's with great pleasure that MacTech and Microsoft worked together to produce a VBA to AppleScript transition guide, which was made available at the show. It is going to get a few updates before it's actually finalized, but look for some announcements from MacTech in this area soon. CryptoCard had all of their wares on display, including a new, hosted "managed authentication service" for companies that may not want to manage this themselves. Now Software was showing a pre-release of it's upcoming Nighthawk software, which will ultimately replace their current Up-to-date and Contact product. While it looks good so far, no shipping date has been announced.

A few things in particular caught our eye. Route Buddy, a Mac-based GPS mapping solution has come a long way in the months that it has been out. The developers are promising the addition of directions in the next few months. Once that happens, we'll be trying it out, as this is software that we've been waiting for since Street Atlas disappeared from the Mac. Lithium Corp. demonstrated Console 2.0, containing a very Mac-like interface for monitoring network devices. Console 2.0 brings you many of the features you wish Apple's Server Monitor had, but doesn't! Features include a trouble-ticket system, trend-analysis, a web-interface, a really cool (and useful!) rack layout module that allows you to show the physical layout of your rack, and some Mac-environment-specific plug-ins (like an XServe RAID plug-in). The Axiotron/OWC announcement of a tablet Mac (the ModBook) caught our eye, too...perhaps we're not sure of the audience. For a tablet computer, it's a work of art, and it runs OS X! With an optional built-in GPS receiver, this does have some interesting applications. All input is via stylus-on-the-screen (of course, you could plug in a USB keyboard, too...it is still a Mac). We're really anxious to see where this gets adopted. It may help OS X penetration into areas where it was previously shut out due to the lack of this form factor (hospitals, factory floors, etc.).

Finally, there was the venerable MacTech show-floor booth. It was a pleasure to meet so many readers, all of who found us in the new-for-2007 North hall venue. Despite MacTech's 22-year history, it was new to some that found us and signed up (switchers, perhaps?). In any case, the booth activity didn't stop, and many people subscribed, re-subscribed, or wanted a MacTech CD, or TidBits CD. We also had meet the author sessions with people like Dean Shavit, Tim Monroe, Adam Engst (to talk about the TidBits CD that uses the MacTech Ink Viewer) and more.

It was truly an incredible week, and MacTech was happy to again be a part of Macintosh and Apple history.

 
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