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ATPM 4.04
April 1998


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Segments: Slices From the Macintosh Life

by Barry Ritholtz,

Mac Shareware Blows Away PC Head

I love a good conversion experience.

A friend, who is a PC guru and bit of a Mac Basher, was over my house the other night. I always like to show him the latest techno wizardry I can squeeze out of my Quadra 650. Believe it or not, the four-year-old Quadra matches up much more closely to his one-year-old Pentium than to his three-year-old 486...Not that he'll admit it. Of course, the main difference between the Mac and the 486 is the Mac is in very active, daily service; the 486 currently resides next to old snow boots in the bottom of his hall closet.

I fire the Quadra up, and his first question is about my choice in startup screens. "I didn't pick it, Startupfrills is set to randomly select from a few dozen of my favorite graphics." Hmmm, pretty cool. Then comes a wicked startup Clixsound--he looks at me, and I just smile. Ditto for the Desktop Texture.

I know he has soul of a geek, so I explain the randomizer, and show him the Startup Items folder within the System folder. "Oh, just like Windows 95 Start Items."

"Yeah, just like it. Exactly like it. In fact, Apple copied it from Windows '84..."

He gets the sarcasm.

We run through a bunch of QuickTime VR movies, graphics, sounds and icons. "Pretty Cool." he says. Although he's a hardcore PC head, he's a fair enough guy to admit when something is on the money.

I decide to play with his head a little. He's been whining in the office about Windows 95 "shortcuts." It seems that if you move the original item, Windows 95 loses track of it--something to do with the underlying DOS tree.

So I create an alias--"shortcut" to him--of something on a removable SyQuest drive; I move the original item on the drive, then copy the alias to a Zip drive. Next, I delete the original alias. I do this again to a floppy. Then I give both the original item and the alias two different, unrelated names. Finally, to make matters more interesting, I swap the SyQuest disk.

Of course, the alias not only tracks the original, but also asks you to insert the proper disk by name.

I know he's floored by this, but is not ready to admit it. "Yeah, what happens after you reboot?" So I reboot. Another cool startup screen, Clixsound, and Desktop Texture.

Once again, the alias happily tracks the original item. He just shakes his head, muttering something under his breath...

Quickly switching subjects, he spies an icon (a multi-con, actually) on the desktop, and asked "What's that for?"
"Just an icon for all my
shareware games." I replied.

"Oh, shareware, that stuff sucks."

S-s-sucks? Ahem.

Now, mind you, this guy is a hardcore Quake player. Eight of us often stay in the office hours after work, playing the networked version on fairly new 233 MHz Pentiums with 21" monitors. His standards for games are pretty high. And, he's a PC head, remember? So let's just say his shareware experience is--how can I phrase this politely?--unremarkable.

I think learning how much Windows '95 shortcuts suck compared to a System 7 Macintosh feature softened him up a bit. Enough with the body blows, it's time for a right hook to the jaw. I know he was a millipede fiend back in his arcade days, so the first game I launch is Apeiron.

What can I say? He's blown away. The graphics, the sound, all of it. Mind you, this is on my four-year-old Quadra, with its little 15" Apple AV monitor. Blown away, totally blown away by a shareware game--which, as we all know, suck.

Next, I demo Blood Bath. I know the shoot 'em up action would appeal to the gamester in him. Did I mention he's an ex-Marine? He loves the target practice.

A few minutes of ShatterBat, which has uses a full 3D perspective and has an unusual gameplay. Then some Maelstrom and Swoop, and some more Apeiron, all of which look so damn good I can see the little spittle accumulating in the corner of his mouth.

The capper was the Mac-only shareware game Short Circuit. For those of you unfamiliar with Short Circuit, it is a not-as-easy-as-it-looks, increasingly complex, hybrid arcade/strategy game. It is also incredibly addictive.

"What's that?" he asked of the Short Circuit icon.

"Oh, just a really old shareware games." I replied, and launched the game.

90 minutes of Short Circuit later, we were both exhausted. Remember that this came on top of two solid hours of Apeiron, Barrack, Bloodbath, Shatterbat, Maelstrom, and more Apeiron. I had one very exhausted PC gamer on my hands.

He was stunned by the whole experience--not just the quality of the graphics, the smooth gameplay, intense sounds, and concepts behind each unique game--but by the fact that this level of quality existed in Mac shareware games. His experience with PC shareware games had been of two flavors: cheesy and damn cheesy.

As he stumbled out after midnight (we both gotta be at work before 9 AM), he mumbled "I gotta rethink this Mac thing." I considered it a moral-- if not an actual--victory: One less PC-er bashing the Mac to the undecided.


Here's my afterthought of this experience: Wouldn't it be great if Apple loaded up all of its new boxes with a few 100 MB of these excellent shareware products? While I'm making a wish list, let's add a few 100 MB of shareware graphics, sounds, icons, desktop patterns, and QT and VR movies--what the hell, lets just fill up a CD-ROM or two--to further separate the "Apple experience" from that of the
Wintel world!

Just a thought...


For those of you unfamiliar with any of the shareware products mentioned, they can be downloaded from AOL or elsewhere on the net.

Short Circuit:

Apeiron, Barrack, Maelstrom, and Swoop are from Ambrosia:

ShatterBat, from Antennahead Software

StartupFrills Home Page


Both Multicons and Desktop Textures 2.1 are available on AOL.

If you have something interesting to say about life with your Mac,
Blue Applewrite to us at
<>. We're happy to publish opinions
or stories from our readers in this Segments section.

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