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ATPM 12.02
February 2006





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Mapwing Creator Pro Review

You’re spot on with your review. I tried out the demo for a real estate agent friend and couldn’t recommend it to her for the price. I told her it was worth maybe $50, but you are closer with $30.

That’s unfortunate because there is a shortage of easy-to-use Flash-based tools on the Mac. My friend is now using Swish on Windows to do her work. It costs what Mapwing should.

—Michael McKee

Curing That Newbie Feeling

I found this article very helpful. One of the most difficult problems for newbies is intimidation. No one likes to feel stupid, and if the helper uses terminology that is incomprehensible, it can be discouraging to have to ask for definitions. Your comments about attitude and your admonition to keep asking, once you have searched FAQs and some of the resources you give, is very heartening for a newbie.

—David Kilpatrick

Thanks for the positive feedback David. During the coming year I hope to do more articles geared toward new users or long-time Mac users trying a new task for the first time.

—Sylvester Roque

• • •

I too found this article helpful and informative. Having purchased my first Mac only two weeks ago (iMac G5 20″), after spending the past 18 years using solely MS-DOS and Windows machines, it has been an interesting experience.

What does surprise me, and this article reminded me, is where Sylvester says to “read the manual.” Well I don’t know about previous Apple computers, but I have to say that the so-called manuals supplied with my iMac G5 were abysmal and, in effect, were only a few pages long. It only told you how to connect the computer to the power supply and switch it on, connect mouse and keyboards etc, and that was about it.

I was very surprised as I would have thought that Apple would have included something more substantial to enlighten those of us who have moved across from Windows, which is a market they are hoping to entice. So I ended up spending about £40 to purchase a couple of good books that explained the ins and outs of Tiger.

I also used the Apple discussion rooms, but, as Sylvester says, it can be hard to track down the information you are seeking. So I will definitely be seeking out some of the forums and sites mentioned here.

Other than that, the iMac G5 itself is excellent.

—Andrew Parkhouse

• • •

I share your pain Andrew. Maybe I wouldn’t go as far as abysmal, but the current Apple manual system is much different from those i got with my first Mac (LCII). I think the manuals weighed more than the computer. We seem to be in a curious time where the system manuals are skimpier than I would like but the manuals for Apple programs are usually at least decent.


• • •

Apple does provide quite a comprehensive electronic help manual in the system. All you need to do is choose Help from the menu bar. The topics covered are very wide ranging that teach you everything from the basics to sharing and collaborating with others. Do check it out. I am sure that you will agree with me that Apple does try its best to make it easy for new users.

—Andrew Wong

Andrew, you are right about Apple having a comprehensive electronic help system. It works much better than the initial attempts at electronic manuals did. There are lots of nice things about electronic help systems but I do find that there are times when having a paper manual would be helpful. Then again, that could just be the way my brain works.

—Sylvester Roque

iMac G5 Review

Like Tom Bridge, I was helpless in front of this beauty, stammering and drooling, just like I do around gorgeous women. However, unlike my experience with women, I actually took this one home with me and found it to be sleek and responsive. ’nuff said!

—Thomas Kaye

• • •

How’s the fan noise?


Very tolerable indeed. Certainly quieter than its predecessors.

—Tom Bridge

• • •

I wonder why they didn’t make the black camera bezel white, so as not to interrupt the beauty of the iMac’s facade? Probably some technical reason having to do with reflectivity and such, but yes, it is a shame that the camera looks like such an afterthought.

—Bruce M.

Coping With Mac OS X’s Font Rendering

Great stuff!

I have used Verdana on my blog for a while, and it is a great basic font for on-screen readability.

Keep up the good work.

—Paul Merrill

• • •

A good alternative to Verdana for places where you need to squeeze lots of information into a small space is Tahoma, again by Microsoft. It’s basically Verdana with the letter spacing tidied up a bit. It’s the default interface font for Windows 95 and up, so it’s well hinted for screen display. I’m not sure how I got it (I never installed it) but it’s installed on my OS X. If you don’t have it, but own Windows, you can just copy it out of Windows’ fonts folder and open and install it on your Mac.

—Alex Reid

Installing certain Microsoft products for Mac is how Mac users gain Tahoma. Mine came with Office v.X. I wasn’t previously aware that Truetype fonts were now interchangeable between Mac OS and Windows. I always used to have to run them through a converter I had purchased back in my OS 8 and 9 days. Perhaps that’s changed for OS X.

—Lee Bennett

• • •

Sigh I long for the day when truly high-res screens make such silly ideas as anti-aliasing obsolete. Until then, I wish developers would design at the proper resolution instead of treating the screen like a print medium. Apple used to know what they were doing. Bah.

—Brian C

• • •

I have been working with type since we set it by hand in advertising agencies. My old eyes are less than perfect at this point.

I use Verdana and Tahoma in OS 9 and prefer Lucida Grande in my newer OS X browsers. This is the opposite of what folk here are doing. I find the smoothed fonts generally are more readable even at 9pt. Lucida Grande 9 in Apple Mail is more readable for me than anything in OS 9. For me, it hurts to see the font rendering in OS 9.

I think there is a good case from the diversity right here, for making font rendering more flexible in OS X. I didn’t realize there were people who preferred OS 9 fonts and rendering until reading this.

—Roger Harris

Wikipedia Is Not the Lovefest We Thought

The British journal, Nature, recently compared science articles in Wikipedia to Encyclopedia Britannica.

Wikipedia did pretty well, and Nature seemed to be very positive on the concept and urged scientists to be active in contributing to it. Although I personally have used Wikipedia very little, the science articles are generally right on and very defendable.

—John Fechner

• • •

It is indeed easier to be more accurate, and more objective when writing about science (bearing in mind that even science can get bogged down in subjective interpretations of specific data, which can and does—in turn—become personal).

But clearly, things relating to political and personal histories almost require a personal analysis and subsequent drawing of conclusions, and therefore lend themselves, almost naturally, to a myriad different interpretations.


REALbasic 2005, Release 4 Review

I think Charles Ross is right; REALbasic has two targets, professionals and beginners. And I think the developers do a good job of balancing the needs of these disparate groups.

I’ve worked with both AppleScript and REALbasic. I think AppleScript is a terrible language for beginners. Although it reads well, it writes terribly—it has a picky syntax; it’s easy to make mistakes and hard to figure out what your mistakes are. Furthermore, you don’t get a GUI until you go to AppleScript Studio. With REALbasic in minutes you can instruct a complete novice to write a program that has a user interface and a button that does something. There are other good instructional languages, but AppleScript isn’t one of them.

A second comment is that I’ve been working with REALbasic for about two years and haven’t had any interaction with a database. Writing a general article about REALbasic when the author’s experience is only with database development gives an extremely limited view of the breadth of the language. I realize that Mr. Ross qualifies the scope of the review early on, but the title and context give a different impression.

Another comment. Twice Mr. Ross says that a limitation of a feature “defeats the whole purpose” of the feature. In neither case is he correct. He says, for example, the fact that you can’t subclass all classes “defeats the purpose of subclassing.” Huh? Does that mean that the ones that can be subclassed are useless? Not in my experience.

One point he makes is a very good one: the blurred distinction between datatypes and classes. I stumbled here when learning the language. A much clearer distinction, at least in the documentation, would be very helpful. Mr. Ross only touched on some of the differences between the two that a programmer should be aware of.

—John Kubie

Thanks very much for your comments. I hope that readers will be able to add your insight when deciding whether to purchase REALbasic.

However, I have to disagree with some of your comments. I think that most of the trouble with AppleScript has less to do with the language than to do with the implementation of scriptability given by application developers. If AppleScript is used only as a programming language rather than a scripting tool, as it may be in the context of AppleScript Studio, I think it’s just as easy to learn as REALbasic, and for the beginning programmer has the benefit of being free.

Also, saying that AppleScript doesn’t include a GUI until one moves to Studio is, I think, ingenuous. You may as well say that BASIC doesn’t include a GUI until you move to REALbasic. Given that a beginning programmer could start with AppleScript Studio as their introduction to AppleScript, the GUI is available right away. As far as an introductory programming language, I see no advantage to REALbasic over AppleScript Studio.

I never said that my only experience with programming is with databases. However, about 75% of my income is currently generated from database development of some sort. I do build other software as well, and even though I did qualify my review, everything I wrote applies regardless of one’s anticipation of using the software for database development. The only two points I specifically made regarding my database experience were the inability to easily edit lengthy string constants and the lack of good documentation for this feature of REALbasic. A reader could mentally edit out these portions, and I think everything else will stand on its own. Regardless, I find it difficult to conceive of a large program that couldn’t make use of an easy database interface of some sort.

I should not have used “defeats the whole purpose” so freely, however. You’re correct that some ability to subclass is better than none, but the ability to subclass any “class” would be much better. I don’t think I’m far off that a lack of allowing any datatype, including objects, to be stored in a constant is nearly a defeat of the purpose of constants. I would have immense use for constants that could store anything, much more so than for constants that can only be a number, string, boolean, or color.

Finally, ATPM has a different style for reviews than many other publications. Our reviews aren’t meant to be all inclusive, feature-driven reports, but to give a personal account of the author’s experience with the software. This is part of the reason I spend so much time at the beginning to describe my background and what I’m hoping to find by trying the software. Since your background might be so different from mine, having never used the database features of REALbasic, you might consider submitting your own review with your experience written into it. Overall, I’m positive about REALbasic, and have already begun to use it to create a commercial application (database-driven, of course), rather than use FileMaker, for the reasons I discussed at the beginning of the article.

—Charles Ross

• • •

Thanks for this review. I have just started using REALbasic about a month ago (standard edition). I have found it significantly easier to use than Xcode with Objective-C. I should mention my interest is in recreational programming after not doing any programming for five or ten years.


You’re welcome. I agree, the REALbasic IDE is easier to use than Xcode, and the language is easier than Objective-C, but it does come at a cost of power. Xcode with Interface Builder offers, I think, better interface feedback and control, and a wider range of widgets (barring using plugins with REALbasic). Not to dissuade you from REALbasic, which I think is a good environment, you may want to check out AppleScript Studio (see my comments earlier today regarding AppleScript). If you’re only building software for the Mac, it may be a viable option.

—Charles Ross

Tactile Pro Review

Some keyboards will always feel “hard” to use. The Fujitsu Siemens keyboards with the round indentations for each key, and the completely absent click, they are really hard to use.

Apple has some not so bad keyboards; I liked the old iMac keyboards, and my old Apple II Saratoga Extended keyboard. But the Tactile Pro really convinced me; it is nice to type, much nicer than anything Apple sells with their machines.

And I almost would have bought another Tactile Pro, if it were not for articles such as these…that make you doubt. Why use a copy when you can get the original?

So, I got myself the real thing together with a PS2-to-USB converter. And you know, there is really no going back. After editing text and working out things using IBM M keyboard technology, there is simply no going back. It is a quantum leap, a big step, a huge improvement. I didn’t think this was for real. Why doesn’t Apple ship with such keyboards?


EarThumps Review

Earthumps? I call them wallet thumps! While the bass response is good, even great by knuckhead standards, there is almost no mid-range and treble response compared to say, a pair of Sony fontopia earbuds. I was so hopeful when I saw the review in ATPM that finally, someone had produced a decent pair of earbuds in the $20–30 range. No such luck. You’ve got to spend at least $50 to find a decent pair of earbud headphones. This is an extremely average set of earbuds. Stick with Sony and give up the extra $25. You won’t regret it. I lost my fontopia earbuds. that’s why I was shopping around. I still miss them. I wasted major $$$ trying to find a cheaper product. Dummy me! This is the 5th pair of earbuds I’ve bought and they suck. I also did not appreciate having to repay an extra $12 to have this garbage delivered to my house!

—Grover Watson

Oh, this is interesting—Grover, your comments made me remember that I turn down the treble on every system when I have that chance, and turn the bass up. So I did not miss the treble on these like you did.

Thanks for the input.

—Ellyn Ritterskamp

• • •

I’d have to disagree on comments about the Sonys. I had the 51 and the 71s and both had severe cord disintegration issues. They were useless after three months—no sound out of either ear. Read the reviews of people who’ve had them long. There are a significant amount of comments about poor Sony workmanship. I’d keep looking because they are poorly made. They sound good but they will die on you quickly.

—DW Wizzle

• • •

Yes, I had the Sonys for awhile, too, and they sounded great. But the rubber on the cords disintegrated, and I have the feeling that I accelerated the process by trying to fix them. But for a few months, they were great.


• • •

Very true about the Sonys. The original phontopes were great, the cord material was “normal” when I finally replaced them after three years with the new phontopes, and they lasted two months before the cord disintegrated. I replaced them three times, taking them back to the store, and the same thing happened on each occasion—not what I was expecting from a Sony product. I’m gonna give these Griffins a go methinks.


• • •

I have tried several pairs of earphones to replace the lackluster ones that came with my iPod, including: Sony 818, Skull Candy Earbuds, JVC Gummis, Apple in-ear, Koss “the plug,” and Maxell Digital Ear Buds P9. No, I did not want to spend more than $60 CAD—all these earphones were either horribly fitting and uncomfortable or terrible sounding.

Then I found the EarThumps…not much $$, fit, feel, and sound great. Sure, there are better for twice the price, but I’m not paying it.

Happy with the EarThumps.


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