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ATPM 9.03
March 2003




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Apple Cider: Random Squeezings From a Mac User

by Tom Iovino,

A Year Apart

Doo-be Doo-be Doooo.

When last we left off , Tom Iovino was listening to Frank Sinatra, getting ready to hang ’em up as Opinion Editor and head off into the sunset…

…and, for the past year (can it be a year already?), I have done exactly as I had promised in my last column. I’ve been spending more time with my family. I’ve been taking time out to watch some old movies I’ve always wanted to see. I’ve even worked hard on perfecting my favorite hobby—woodworking. Some of my projects look so good, in fact, that I have moved a couple of them into the living area of my home and actually showed them off to guests. (Would you look at how I cut that board? I mean, it almost looks like I meant to do it that way!)

While I have been working away at relaxing, I think I might have some type of underlying problem. This retirement thing hasn’t all been what it’s cracked up to be.

After all, writing Apple Cider for as long as I had, it is difficult to short circuit the reflexes I had built throughout the years. For instance, whenever I hear the word Apple used on television, I stop what I’m doing and take a listen to hear what’s being said about the company. I still find myself looking at computers being used in commercials and hope that they are Macs. And, whenever I go to a store that sells software, I’m always on the hunt for Mac titles.

So, in an effort to give release to the pent-up musings, rantings, and ravings that beg to be heard, I offer the following for your consideration:

It’s a Jungle Out There

And the best way to navigate through the deep underbrush of the Internet seems to be taking a Safari. Apple’s new Web browser offers quite a bit of promising good news. By speeding downloads and processing JavaScript faster than the competition, Apple seems to be going in a different direction than browsers have gone in the past. After all, the more nifty features that are added to Web pages, the larger the browser programs have become as they are called upon to handle more tasks. By starting out from scratch, a number of new efficiencies can be designed into the program. And, with Safari running native on OS X, it takes advantage of the operating system’s architecture, making the program a winner for the Mac. Besides, if it can automatically block pop-up ads, that makes it worth a look.

This Flat-Out Rocks

Let’s hear it for the iMac! Great performance, a crisp flat-screen monitor, and a sleek design have made the consumer Mac a great value for people trying to get into computing. Now this is what computers were supposed to look like in the new Millennium—at least that’s what they thought back in the late 60s and early 70s. It’s also funny to see all of the PC clones out there that try to look like the iMac. After all, wasn’t the iMac criticized early on for being too gimmicky?

Dot-Coms Are Still Down

How many of us can remember those heady days when a dot-com just had to mention that it was going to issue stock and people would line up to get their share? The trend has continued, and, in some respects, even gotten worse. AOL Time Warner has taken its share of lumps in the media recently with—surprise!—the AOL component of the company dragging down the corporation’s established media divisions. Now, I hate to think of people getting what they deserve, but in some respects, the dot-com bust is paying back some folks in spades.

I’ll offer my own example. In 1998 and 1999, I was writing for a company that was building a large Internet community for parents. My community co-host and I were working long hours and expending a lot of energy to build an enthusiastic group of participants. Our message boards were busy and our chat rooms were packed. So, what happened? Well, just a few weeks before the company went public, they went on a firing spree, canning even little old me, so their bottom line would look even better for investors. OK, that’s business. But, when I asked for a letter of recommendation that I could tuck into my portfolio, I was told, “absolutely not.” How’s that for a kick to the shins?

And, when their stock hit Wall Street, it shot up to nearly $140 a share. I was pretty angry at the time, because all of those staffers who remained on staff were given stock options, and I’m sure they made money hand over fist.

Recently, I checked the company’s stock performance, and I have to admit that it was hard to suppress a grin. After all, their stock is now trading at 68 cents a share. How the mighty have fallen.

School’s In

It may seem hard to believe, but my oldest son, Dominic, is getting ready to attend his first year of kindergarten. I still have to shake my head after writing those words; I can’t believe that the first five years of his life have passed so quickly! Here in Pinellas County, Florida, we have a new system for choosing the school children will attend. Back in 1972, the county was placed under court-ordered bussing to integrate the school system. In 2000, a federal judge overturned the ruling based on the fact that the schools had achieved a unitary status, meaning that children of all racial and cultural backgrounds had fair representation in schools across the county. So now, instead of sending my son down the street to the closest school, we need to choose five schools in our area, and the School Board will assign him a school from that list.

This new plan meant that my wife and I had to visit about ten schools we were interested in sending our son to. The choices were tough, with energetic teachers, great facilities, and fun activities found at each school. For me, one factor that stood out was that certain schools had a greater emphasis on technology and computers—specifically Macintosh. While all schools had their share of Macs in the classrooms, two of the ten had fully-stocked computer labs complete with rows of brand new eMacs. So, when the time came to make my decision, my list had these two schools right at the top. Now, all I have to do is get the results back, and, of course, buy my son a lunch box!

New Ways to Spend Time—and Money

As I had stated earlier, I have spent a lot of time woodworking out in the garage. There’s nothing quite like the sound of a table saw slicing through a board, or a router cutting a decorative edge into a piece of molding. That’s the problem. Over the past year, I have added quite a few tools to the shop, including a brand new RIDGID table saw. And, let me tell you, those tools and accessories aren’t cheap. But, even with all of the new-fangled toys, I turn to my trusty Mac to get me started.

I’m sure you must be wondering how a computer can help with woodworking. It’s really easy—before I buy a stick of wood or make one cut, I have to draw out my plans. And, I can do that on the Mac. Then, I can turn to a program that shows me how to get the most out of each board or sheet of plywood, saving lots of time, money and aggravation in the shop. After all, with each sheet of cabinet grade plywood costing somewhere about $40, you don’t want to make too many mistakes!


Before I sign off for this year’s edition of Apple Cider, I want to let all of you know that part of me really misses putting my thoughts before you every month. Then, on the other hand, there is the part of me that enjoys the time I have to work in the shop, hang out with my wife, or wrestle with my sons. And, when I weigh the two, I can say that I enjoy the time doing the latter more than the former.

But, when the muse moves me, you can count on seeing more Cider!

Maybe Sinatra has something to do with it?

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Reader Comments (3)

Mark Brierley · March 3, 2003 - 03:18 EST #1
If you are going to choose your school by the computers, I suggest you choose a school which has an effective computer curriculum—not just the platform.
Tom Iovino (ATPM Staff) · March 3, 2003 - 16:29 EST #2
Mark - thanks for your response! As you had suggested, during my tour, I had gone into great discussion with school administrators and teachers about the tech side of the house. I found the schools that had newer computers housed in a special tech lab offered far better-organized and seemingly effective teaching plans than the schools that had older computers scattered throughout individual classrooms.
Ralph Lewis · March 17, 2003 - 22:01 EST #3
The State of Maine has contracted with Apple Computer to put a new iBook in the hands of every 7th grade student (more than 17,000) for the next 4 years. It appears to be a resounding success by mid-year reports and the results of pilot programs last year. Attendence is up, discipline incidents down, and interest is through the roof. Teachers have been given training and more is to come. Bill Gates donated $1,000,000 toward training and many software programs have been donated. (Thank you, Governor King.)

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