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Tom Briant

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Why You Want a Mac this holiday season

If you want my opinion on which computer to get a loved one or yourself, I’d say “Go with a Mac instead of a PC”. I have several reasons for suggesting a Mac.

1. A Mac in the long term, if not the short term, will give you less grief. I recently spent a Friday evening and all of a Saturday trying to upgrade my aging Windows XP PC. Now I’ve added memory, an extra hard drive, and a new Ethernet card to this 7 year-old machine with no trouble. When I tried to add a new video card, a fancy one featuring an Nvidia GeForce 6200 processing unit, I thought I’d have the cat’s pajamas. Instead I might as well have tried to bath a cat. I finally gave up, put the new video card back in its box for another day or another owner, put the system back the way it came, and chalked it up to experience. Bad experience. And let’s not go into what reinstalling a Windows operating system involves. The horror!

2. You pay a premium for a Mac the same way you pay a premium for a really good car. I plan to buy myself a Mac Mini for roughly $950 next spring. That’s a lot of money for such a small computer. But my Mac Mini will come with sufficient memory, lots of hard disk space, built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and two video outputs. It also comes with a Thunderbolt port (?) for when the Thunderbolt external peripherals start coming down in price to the level of ordinary mortals. Best of all, it comes with the Mac operating system, which is what Microsoft wants to beat.

3. What about the “Mac tax”? As I said, you do pay more for a Mac than a Windows machine on sale at Frys. But what else comes with that. Well, I’ll bet the machine at Fry’s comes with trial-offer software, aka “crapware.” You’ll get a free subscription to Norton Anti-Virus. After the free trial, you get socked with an annual subscription for an overly complicated program. This is my advice. If you do have to settle for a Windows machine this holiday season, install Windows Security Essentials. It’s a FREE anti-virus program from Microsoft itself. Just Google “Microsoft Security Essentials” and you’ll find the specific place on the Microsoft site for the program.

4. You’ll probably find a trial offer on a Windows computer for Microsoft Office. It costs over $100 after the free trial runs out. Here’s my advice. Check out your work or your child’s school/college for a cheaper version. If you work for the Federal Government, Microsoft wants so desperately to get a copy of Office into your hot little hands that they’ll give it to you for $9.95. Check out your agency’s Web site for the Microsoft Home User Program. The Home User Program also offers Microsoft Office for Mac for a similar price.

5. If $100 is too much for a word processor, here’s my next suggestion. Google “LibreOffice” and get a free office suite. That’s right, FREE. They will ask for donations, but that’s another matter. You can get a perfectly good office suite for FREE for Windows or Mac. Note: LibreOffice is derived from the Open Office project. The developers had a fight, and the majority split off to form LibreOffice. Same great software. If you get documents from an Open Office user, they work transparently in LibreOffice. And LibreOffice works with all versions of Word and Excel and even WordPerfect!

6. What if your beloved already has a computer and likes their printer, keyboard, mouse, and monitor? They just want to get away from Windows? You want a Mac Mini as I plan to get. Now in addition to the Mac Mini, you’ll need to get a PS/2 to USB converter cable at Staples, and adapters for the kind of monitor your beloved has.

7. Now if they use a big-screen TV as their computer’s screen, a Mac Mini is already set to go. If they use a flat-panel screen for their computer, they’re set to go when they unwrap the package. If they still use a big hot heavy tube as their computer screen, then you need to go to the Apple store to ask for a “VGA adapter for the Mac Mini”. That’s about $20, but it beats having to wait until the Apple Store is open again.

8. Got any questions? Put a comment in the blog or e-mail me at

9. Happy Holidays, everyone!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The President's Blog for November 2011

At our November 2nd MacValley Apple Users Group meeting, we will have a presentation of Apple’s Pages 09.
Pages is a showcase App at the new online App store for the Mac. For the almost negligible price of $19.99, the user gets a full-featured writing app that includes a contextual format bar where you can format your text and adjust images. You can also use the bar to choose your fonts, change text size and color, adjust your line spacing and your paragraph alignment, check your spelling, and proofread your document. It takes a few clicks to add headers, footers, footnotes, and bookmarks.
You can save your documents in MS Word format (DOC), along with RTF, PDF, or as plain text. Using Mac OS X Mail, you can export your docs as ePub or PDF files.
And this is neat -- If you want to publish your writing, you can send your ePub document to iBooks via iTunes, and you can self-publish on iBookstore.
Quite a deal for under twenty bucks.
For more info on our upcoming general meeting, to go
Cristael Bengtson

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Apple is making a TV set

According to Bloomberg, Apple now wants to make a TV set. The iTV? Jeff Robbin, who developed SoundJam, the genesis of iTunes, will head the effort. Steve Jobs considered Mr. Robbin so valuable he wouldn't let TIME magazine release his last name in an article, for fear that a competitor would steal him away.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cristael's Thoughts on Steve Jobs

At last Wednesday’s MacValley meeting, we had a moment of silence for Steve Jobs. We all mourned the passing of a man who was wholly unique.
I remembered way back in the mid 1980’s when I was, like so many people, drawn to the Mac -- the computer for the rest of us. To this day, I am a member of ‘The Rest of Us Society of America’, that ninety-nine percent of us who are not computer experts.
So back in 1985, I bought my first 128K Mac and a ImageWriter printer to go with it. I took them home, and I found out that I could cut! I could copy! I could paste!
No more plastic bottles of messy, sticky white-out. No more typewriter erasors that left a hole in the typing paper. It was a writer’s dream come true.
Never mind all the fancy stuff that came later. For me, that first copy-and-paste on my 128K was a defining life moment. One of those times when you see a better world at your fingertips.
That day, Steve Jobs and the Mac became a part of my life. And today, my iMac is helping to make my dreams about writing come true.
A great man is one who changes the world for the better in ways that are small as well as great. And Steve Jobs did just that. Jobs’ visionary dreams, his ability to gather the most brilliant and most creative people around him, his drive for perfection, and his genius for marketing, gave us the Mac, the iPad, the iPod, and the iPhone.
Power was handed to so many people, lots of us just average folks, by the products that Steve Jobs dreamed and then put on our desks.
Jobs had a vision for Apple, and he had the sheer determination to make it work. Over the years, Jobs’ vision has worked for me and so many others like me, in so many ways.
Truly, God made Steve Jobs and then He broke the mold.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Exporting Data from Appleworks 6 to iWork and others

At the October 5, 2011, MacValley General meeting, I engaged in a conversation between two other members and myself.

One member said she wanted to move on to Lion, but felt fearful. She has a lot of documents in Appleworks format. She knows that Appleworks won’t work under Lion, so what will she do?

I gave her several suggestions off the top of my head for converting various Appleworks documents into contemporary formats.

I also helped another member Saturday the 2nd with a Classic program they want to run under Leopard 10.5. All in all, MacValley has a lot of members who move slowly from past into present.

So sitting at my computers and logging onto the Intertubes, this is what I found after a day of research.

First, if you want to move from Appleworks 6 to a modern format, you need conversion software.

If you want an Apple sanctioned solution, go to Apple’s iWork Website and download the 30 day trial of iWorks ‘09. For 30 days, you can see if your old Appleworks word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations will convert into iWorks formats.

From iWorks-well, Pages, Numbers and Keynote-you can then export to 3rd party formats.

Pages can export to these formats: PDF, Word (.doc), RTF, Plain Text, and ePub.

Numbers can export to these formats: PDF, Excel (.xls), and Comma-Separated-Values (CSV).

Keynote can export to these formats: QuickTime movie (.mov), Powerpoint (.ppt), PDF, just the images, HTML, and to your iPod.

Online Resources for Appleworks to iWorks conversion

The longstanding Appleworks User Group has updated to become the Appleworks/iWork Users Group. You can reach them at

Well, what about the other formats?

What about the Database format? What about the Painting and Drawing formats?

You can save Paintings in a variety of formats that OS X Preview will open, such as PNG, JPEG, and Windows BMP. So Painting is no problem.

Appleworks Drawing, though, is another matter. For that, you need Dekorra Optics’ EazyDraw 4.0. It will open up these Appleworks drawings if you use version 4.0 or before. Let me quote from their README file of their latest version, 4.1:

This version of EazyDraw (4.1) DOES NOT include support for AppleWorks, ClarisDraw, MacDrawPro, MacDrawII, and MacDraw classic drawing formats. Go to the EazyDraw support web page: for more information and a solution for converting these drawing files on your current version of OS X. EazyDraw version 4.0.0 is provided as a solution for importing these drawings on OS X version 10.4 and newer, including OS X version 10.7 (Lion).

PowerPC processors are no longer supported beginning with EazyDraw version 4.1.0. EazyDraw 4.0.0 is provided on our Support web page, it still supports PowerPC on OS X versions 10.4.x and 10.5.x.

You got that? Go to, download Eazydraw 4.0 from their support page and convert those Appleworks drawings!

The version of EazyDraw you get from the Mac App Store does NOT support importing Appleworks drawings! Go to the Web site and download the appropriate version for your needs.

If you expect to use Eazydraw for several months, buy a 9 month license for $20. This covers both version 4.0 and the newer version 4.1.

What About Databases?

Let me steal unabashedly and admiringly from Chris Breen here:

Open the Appleworks database and choose Organize->Show All Records.

Select a layout that displays every field, select all, and copy the text to the clipboard.

You can also export the database as ASCII text. If you export the database data to an Appleworks spreadsheet and then move it to FileMaker, some odd characters might appear.

Open a new spreadsheet document. This can be Appleworks’ own spreadsheet component or an Excel document (Ed. I just tried Numbers from iWork ‘09 and it worked great)

Paste the text into the spreadsheet.

In all likelihood your data won’t contain field headings-Address and Phone Number, for example. When pasting your text, be sure to plunk that text down a couple of rows, leaving room to enter the field heading titles in the first row of the spreadsheet.

Save the spreadsheet as ASCII text.

Open that file in Filemaker Pro (or another database that imports delimited ASCII text, such as Bento 2).

The data will appear in a spreadsheet layout, meaning you’lll have to recreate the original database’s layout. No, your forms do not copy over from Appleworks.

What about MacLinkPlus?

DataViz does not sell MacLinkPlus anymore. I have MacLinkPlus. We can talk at the meeting.

What if I have to run Appleworks? What are the extreme options?

Your extreme options come down to this:

You can keep Appleworks on a separate machine and link the two machines via Teleport. Teleport lets you use one keyboard and pointing device to control up to 3 other Macs. Go to the Abysssoft Web site for more information. It’s a free donation-ware program.

If you have to run Appleworks on a MacBook Pro, I have successfully tested the option of running Appleworks on the Sheepshaver PPC emulation with OS 9.04.

As for running Appleworks under Snow Leopard with a virtual machine such as Parallels/VM Fusion/VirtualBox, I haven’t tested this. Tell us what you found out.

Thoughts on Steve Jobs while listening to George Gershwin

As I listened to Oscar Levant play the Three Preludes of his mentor George Gershwin this morning, I thought about Steve Jobs. Steve died too soon, as did George Gershwin; but left a vast legacy behind him.

The first item I would like to deal with is Steve himself. Steve was often difficult to deal with, and a lot of people who felt the lash of his tongue and temper have often dreamed of the day when they could…dance on Steve’s grave. His personal life was not perfect. None of our personal lives is perfect.

Having said that, I should state I feel very glad that Steve did not see Apple as his family’s business, like the Ford family from Henry Ford on down has seen the Ford Motor Company. I assume his children are exceptional and will achieve great things. If they get free MacBook Pros for life to aid them in that creative process, that’s fine. But Thank God and Steve that some 21 year-old kid is not expected to replace their father at Apple’s helm. Thank you, Steve, for institutionalizing your way of doing business at Apple.

It’s true that Apple and Steve didn’t invent many of their products. Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player in 2001. When Apple introduced the iPod, they built on the iTunes music software, with a track record of ripping CDs into MP3s successfully and burning CDs from those MP3s. A lot of Windows software back then sputtered and failed in those simple tasks. Apple also had a high-speed interface in 2001 in Firewire 400, which allowed you to fill up the 5 GB of your iPod with music as quickly as possible. Everyone else used USB 1.1 or a kludge through the Windows machine’s printer port. You had to wait and wait for your MP3 player to fill up with music. But Apple’s iPod/iTunes? It all just worked together the first time.

I just put on John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, which I bought from iTunes some years back, on iTunes for Windows. Later on tonight, I’ll put on some Beatles. That’s my way to remember Steve and what he brought into my life.

And to quote from the first Pixar movie, “To infinity-and beyond!” Bye Steve, I’ll see you in my iPad next year.

Tom Briant

Editor, Macvalley Voice

Monday, October 3, 2011

A few words from Ken Gruberman about Sibelius

Hi everyone,
YES, I will be back at MacValley on October 5th to demo Sibelius 7 music notation software as I promised, and I am really looking forward to it. Sibelius 7 is the most advanced and nuanced version of Sibelius yet, and now includes over 25GB of sampled instruments that are included at no extra cost! This is ten times more than Finale offers. This allows Sibelius 7 users to play and hear accurate sounding scores no matter what the instrumentation.

Speaking of Finale, Sibelius 7 features some compelling ways for Finale users to finally switch over to a much easier and more intuitive way of writing music.

This is an important step forward, as many professional orchestrators and other musicians I’ve talked to over the years have told me about their ongoing frustration with using Finale, and expressed their desire to switch over to Sibelius. The only thing stopping them? Their fear of “having to start all over again” from the ground up. Now, with Sibelius 7’s new Speedy Entry system and the ability to open Finale-generated Music XML files, they’ll feel right at home!

AVID’s marketing team has been working with me to provide materials for the demo, such as pens and literature, along with an actual boxed copy of the program itself.

Don't take this for granted; most marketing departments — Avid's included — have endured huge budget and staff cuts. So most of them do everything online and have very little in the way of printed literature and goodies to give away like the old days. And a prize donation? Almost unheard of now! But, because of our long-standing relationship, they have agreed to give us a copy of Sibelius 7, which sells for $599, and one of you will be going home with it at the end of the evening.

Because of the specialized nature of this software, the prize will be featured in its own drawing. Tickets will be one for $5, or three for $10. Do you feel lucky?

Speaking of online, if you think about it, you can get everything online these days regarding marketing, especially regarding Sibelius. You can download a free demo of the software. You can get the fact sheet and see tutorial videos and a Finale/Sibelius comparison page, etc. etc. To learn more, watch videos, or even download your own trial copy, simply go to:



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