Apple Expo, Revisit No. 12

photo: porte de versailles
Here are happy people leaving the one of the many exhibitions at Paris-Expo.

If There Was Magic Before, Where
Has It Gone?

Paris:- Wednesday, 16. September 1998:- It is 14 years since I first touched a computer and it is also 14 years since I first touched a Macintosh.

This must be the reason I am riding all the way down to Paris-Expo at the Porte de Versailles. Yes, readers, it is Apple Expo time in Paris, France again.

This is not to say I like 'touching' computers. When you don't have to do it, they can be cute little toys; fun to fiddle with, do a little hacking, play some games.

But when you 'touch' them all the time they quickly become impersonal little mysterious boxes full of gizmos, and they can be really annoying if they are prone to 'crashing' or sending valued files to someplace beyond Mars.

What I am going to miss today - because it happens tomorrow - is Jean-Michel Jarre 'creating electronic images' together with J. C. Deep, for projection on 'giant' screens, while directing some zoomy music, 'played live.'

Since some of these images will be 'treated in 3D,' the spectators will have to wear special glasses to see them properly. Nothing is mentioned about wearing headphones to hear the music in 2D - stereo - but I guess enough of a good thing is a good thing.

All of this must mean that Steve Jobs is really running Apple again. The last time things were so zoomy at the Apple Expo in Paris, I was doing 'live' black and white 2D! images for 'projection on big screens,' plus I had some 'laser' stuff running too. No music though.

That was in 1985 and on Monday after the Expo was over, both Steve Jobs and I were fired. People who have 'visions' do not win every round.

One other thing I remember about that Apple Expo back then, was the incredibly charged sense of electricity thatphoto: kids at apple expo was in the air. It was like a circus full of magicians; anybody could do anything! Everybody, not just Apple, was inventing stuff.

The kids still get the magic; even if they don't care about the name on the box.

One of my cartoonist colleagues won a brand-new 'fat' Mac and he almost burst with anticipation. At the time the Mac still only had the tiny 13-inch screen; and there were exactly three graphic software packages: MacPaint, SuperPaint and MacDraw.

Today at Apple Expo I have to really look around to find the 'developers' corner. When I find them, there are about eight of these pioneers. On another stand, I find some others who are a bit further along.

Guido Gualandi has a shop called Ziggourat, and it is the editor of a new 3D program called 'Aleph 3D.' What makes this 3D package different from its competitors is its small size - only 2.5 Mo - the speed of its renderer, and its low price.

Guido, who also edits a multimedia magazine called 'Red Green Blue' readily admits that Aleph 3D might have a higher learning curve than some of its competitors, but says the results are well worth the bit of extra effort.

If you happen to be in Paris on 2. and 3. October, Ziggourat is having an 'open doors' session each day from 10:30 to 18:00. The address is 11. rue du Perche, Paris 3, and the closest métro is Saint-Sébastien- Froissart.

If this seems to you to be an outrageous plug for one little software company, you are right. Guido and his crew remind me of the electric energy of the 'old' days. In these days of the big eating the small until there is no choice left, people like Guido can use all the friends they can get.

I look at Disney's stand for little kids, called 'CyberMôme,' and the kids on it seem to be enjoying themselves. I talk to the Monsieur who runs the 'CyberJob' stand, and he says people who can run computers for DTP and the Web are in heavy demand. The 'CyberCafé' is being run by AOL or CompuServe or both, but I can't afford a café.

Apple itself has a huge series of stands, of course, but I skip them all. The slogan this year is "Internet a un nouveau visage" and it refers to the new, one-box iMac. I saw one of these last week at fnac so I skip Apple's stands. 'One-box' Macs remind me of 1985.

As in past years, the vendors' stands seem to be the biggest and the most tasteless; the only time of the year and the only place in France where one might be able to find niche hardware and software. Other visitors have brought handcarts to haul their booty away.

What I do take a close look at are all the stands with digital cameras. With some fast talking I managephoto: big kids at expo to get some comparison shots to match with my old Apple! first-generation QuickTake camera.

Right after taking this photo, the screen got very zoomy. Drats!

This is very inexact and off-the-cuff, so details will be unfair. I will say this: Agfa's 'ePhoto 780' is inexpensive and simple and looks as cheap as a throwaway, but it is a good performer. Shooting in the Expo hall, hand-held by the demo guy, with no flash, it did very well indeed.

With all the chit-chat, especially with the 'demo' ladies, I used up more time than I planned and collected more brochures than I intended to. In this way, I missed the really nice day that was going on outside.

Surprise Software Find

Putting Metropole together requires keeping my eyes and ears open and keeping my feet on the streets of Paris. On the technical side, the magazine's production requires a modest amount of hardware and a really modest amount of software.

Metropole's readers write and I reply and for this I need an email program. I started off with the free version of Eudora, but quickly acquired the full version - directly from a vendor in California - because I wanted the English version of the manual.

This 'paid' version is also more heavy-duty than the free version. In the early days of producing Metropole, all the text and all of the photos and graphics were transferred as email attachments to the Web-server's HQ with Eudora.

For these reasons, when the 'new, improved, stronger' Eudora Pro version four for the Macintosh was announced early this year, I wanted it.

A Metropole reader in California offered to get it for me and send it.

This new version contains cryptographic features, known as PGP, which the US Defense Department considers to be a military secret, so the US version is not exportable.

If my good reader had gone ahead with his offer, he would have broken US law. And, as it turns out, I would have broken a similar French law if I had imported it. The spooks would have been all over us.

In addition, Eudora's publisher, Qualcomm, announced that it would no longer produce foreign-language Mac versions - although foreign versions for the Mac are estimated to amount to as much as 50 percent of sales.

A big howl went up. Qualcomm then announced it would produce an international Mac version - in English only - downsized and exportable - with no PGP at all. Metropole's reader tried to buy this version but was told it wouldn't be shipped to an US address.

At Apple Expo today, after looking high and low, this version of the number one email software package was nowherephoto: schnitt from ePhoto 780 to be found. At one vendor's stand, a sales lady said she'd ordered two copies some time ago and was still waiting for them.

Agfa's 'ePhoto 780' example photo was hand-held, shot with available light - and heavily cropped.

By the purest chance, late last week after a six months' search I finally stumbled on a copy - the last one - of the well-written and useful 'Visual Quickstart Guide' for Eudora, written by Adam Engst for Peachpit Press.

Mr. Engst is not unknown as he is the publisher of the popular weekly email Newsletter 'TidBITS' - which is mainly about Macs but has a lot of up-to-date Internet news too. He also wrote a huge tome some years ago, entitled the 'Internet Starter Kit,' which has sold a gazillion copies and was instrumental in bringing the initial - non-nerd - public rush to the Internet.

So I have an old, but serviceable, version of the email program; plus I have a manual for an improved version, written by an expert - but no new program in sight.

In the village here, I see Siggi standing in the doorway of the antique house or barn he is fixing up to be a snazzy town house. I see Siggi is wearing an 'Eudora' T-shirt.

A T-shirt is better than nothing so I tell Siggi I can't find Eudora. Siggi is cool; Siggi says I can buy it from his site, which contains an online software shop.

As soon as I get home I check this out. Siggi is right. I can get this software, in Mac or Windows versions, right here in this village in France, right from where I'm sitting, right now!

I think this offer may only be for residents of France. Although silent, Metropole has one or two readers here. (Don't hesitate to write. Don't hesitate to do it with Eudora - I think the Windows version is available in French.)

If any of you are looking for Eudora version four, just hit the hyperlink above and have your Carte-Bleue/Visa card handy. The site says there are two versions available: online and packaged. The package takes no more than 48 hours to arrive.

If you want to thank anybody for this info, thank Siggi.

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