Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A New Era for an Old Machine

In 1984 during my freshman year of college, I drew a computer in my English Comp class in about 10 minutes. The Disktran/W1 computer was a total redesign of the Apple //e computer, however, The design of that computer seemed to me to be more of a boom box than a computer and being as it was inspired by the Kaypro series of computers, it would have taken a miracle to build the thing and actually have it work. However, my design incorporated an Apple //e motherboard and Disk II floppy drives. The design never was built but was stored in my college papers.

As you know, the laptop computers began to appear not long after that with the Mac series and ancient looking 386 machines being the norm. There were still the portables such as those built by Compaq, Commodore and the IIgs portable produced by Tony Diaz, however, none of them were of much consequence in the overall computer world.

Then in 2001, I began to look at the possibility of building and Apple IIgs into a laptop form factor that would not only operate as a laptop but would have the capabilities of the desktop, including allowing external components, expandability, and ease of use. But the display had to be of the sort that would not only impress those people who were involved in the original Apple IIgs era but also a new era of hobbyists. In other words, according to Jim Maricondo, "It has to have Graphics and Sound!". Thus was born the A2GS-L01. While the plan incorporated many technologies that existed, many did not and the project was shelved.

Then in 2007, a hack named Ben Heckendorn produced an Apple IIgs laptop complete with specialty case. It was a sight for sore eyes and proved that the concept was not far fetched. However, even with as many obstacles that had been overcome with Ben's project, there were still many things missing.

Jim Maricondo and I talked about the project once again and we decided that the time was right to pull the project out. James Littlejohn, a well known hardware engineer also began his own laptop project about the same time and we began sharing notes. By November 2009, we all began to pull the resources together and place all the efforts into one house rather than several.

We had purchased the domain several years ago in preparation for the project but it seemed like it was never going to happen. But since we were suddenly presented with the opportunity early this year, the domain was pulled out of the mothball state that it had been in and it is now the live update site for the A2GS-L01 project. The team now has reached a total of 7 people, with the three of us in Tokyo and 4 vendors around the world. The prototype of our machine will be available by New Years with full production beginning in February or March of 2010. Orders for the machine will be taken starting 15 February 2010 and all machines will be available in one of two flavors. Fully stacked and Bare Bones.

For those people who still own a IIgs and have cards for the machine, those cards will work in the new laptops as well as long as they run on a ROM01 machine. There is a movement towards the ROM03 at some point within the year but the initial run will run ROM01's due to the availability of certain technology for it.

If you would like to find out more, then I suggest you follow along on the blog at If you would like to see the machine in action, be sure to see our demo and sales booth at KFest 2010.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Twitter...a few hints for new followers

Every day, I get a dozen new followers. I have had some very enjoyable conversations and even arguments with many good people on Twitter. They make each day very fun and I look forward to their input.

However, While I appreciate most of the new followers, there are a few practices by some of those in the twitter community that really get my gourd. In no particular order, they are:

1. After welcoming a new follower, they DM spam me with Mass following spam. I dont welcome new followers because I want any mass following tricks or my inbox filled with spam. This applies to those followers who send a message saying check out my new website and it turns out that it is another get rich quick scheme. Both of these are grounds for instant deletion and addition to the Twitspam website.

2. Followers who have thousands of follows and followers, yet have only 1 update or in several cases, no updates. I dont care to have followers or follow people who dont care enough about the community to post updates that are at least readable. The people I follow are interesting which is why I follow them. If you have no posts on one post, dont follow me as you will get blocked and added to the Twitspam website.

3. Twitter is NOT a popularity contest. Unfortunately, Ashton Kucher and CNN screwed that idea to heck and now Oprah and all these other A List celebs are doing the same thing. while they did it for a good cause, the only thing these people have done in my book is screw up and slow down Twitter for the rest of us. Get over yourselves already.

4. People who post every minute with the only thing in the post is the URL for their website. This is not enjoyable and in fact can be quite annoying. Twitter is not a place for you to takeover. It is a community and if you practice this type of twittering, you will find yourself deleted in very short order and on the Twitspam website.

While this list is short, I am sure that there are a dozen other things I could post here. But in closing, I would like to say to my Twitter friends, thanks for following and I look forward to talking with you. But to the spammers I say, please dont follow me unless you enjoy being blocked and added to spammer lists.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Superduper 2.5 -- An A.P.P.L.E. Review

Product Name: Superduper
Version: 2.5
Cost: Free for Basic, $27/95 for Pro
Publisher: Shirt Pocket

It finally happened! That's right, that weird noise that signals the end of the lifetime of my hard drive. The one these the Shirt Pocket crew talks about in their reasons for their program. But then, the noise might not have been the hard drive. It may have just been the internal fan gone awry. But of course, I wasn't taking any chances. I got on the net and looked for a simple backup solution which would backup an entire drive.

Superduper was the one program that seemed to to prevalent. It came up in several forums as the program to have. And at a 2.7mb free download for the basic backup utility, it is perfect for the job. It loaded right up with its installer and was running within seconds

User Experience
The hard drive I was forced to use was a dual partition hard disk drive with Leopard on a separate partition for installing from HDD. Obviously I didn't want to lose that and was afraid the program would delete all the partitions. However, my fears were soon laid to rest when the program told me it was only going to wipe out the one partition that I wanted to use.

And true to form, it did and soon the drive in my machine was being backed up like a champ. Now I cant tell you enough that doing a backup like this is time consuming, so dont wait until your drive completely dies before doing something about it. In my case, I was wanting to upgrade to a larger drive anyways, so with 500gb hard drives at barely $100, it is now time to do that in coordination with everything else.

Good Points
Everything about this program is great as far as we can see. Not only does it backup your drive to an external HDD, but it also makes that backup bootable. This is a key factor in dealing with HDD failures and replacements. It allows you to back up the drive, tear out the old one from your machine, install a new one and then backs up the external right back to the new internal disk. It all is quite simple and elegant.

Also the fact that the programs integral components are as the site says, "free -- forever!", plays heavily in the fact that this program is great. You don't really need all the pro features to make your hard drive copy but if you do, the cost is not out of this world.

The one feature that is in the Pro version that is a nice to have item is the ability to schedule backups, allowing a bootable image to be stored on the Time Machine drive. The problem with Time Machine is that it only copies files and thus any installed apps are useless and the only good point of having it is to backup your files. Superduper goes beyond that allowing complete recovery.

The best point of the software is the learning curve. There is practically none. It just does what it says it will do. It even gives the warnings about how it will deal with the partition and the fact that if you have any information on it, it will be gone.

Bad Points
The only bad point we could find is one that is not even related to this software. it is about backing up HDD's in general and that one point is the amount of time it takes. Be prepared to do something else while the program is performing its magic. Our drive only took 4.5 hours but that is for 160gb. Larger drives will obviously take more time. You can figure just over an hour of time for every 30 gb of hard disk space. Even the cost for the pro version is not out of reach.

Our experience with this program has been wonderful. The best part is now I can replace my drive without worrying about the fact that my machines internal drive is on its last leg. It certainly allows me to sleep much better at night since it was 5am in the morning when the machine's drive started making enough noise to wake me out of a sound sleep.

5 out of 5 Apples

Universal Binary

Microsoft closes Aces and kills FS World in one swat

Over the past thirty or so years, the Flight Simulator has been the center of the universe for most wanna be pilots and even real world pilots. Even I have the latest versions of the program along with all the goodies from CH Products and multiple screens, etc. But now that world has become somewhat confused thanks to Microsoft closing down the Aces Productions where the program was made.

Flight Simulator X was an advancement in the technology of the flight simulation systems with many new ideas and clarity of graphics and objects being added to the program. Supposedly the version that was being worked on for the next release of the product series was even more advanced. Of course we will never know due to the fact that when Microsoft laid off 5,000 people, they had all signed the Non-Disclosure agreements with the company meaning they cant even talk about the company or the product.

I guess that means the 14 million dollar question is "Will Microsoft ever sell Flight Simulator again?" My only answer to that is hopefully someone else will take it off Microsoft's hands and continue the hard work that was put into it.

If you are wondering where I came up with the number 14 Million dollars, that is the amount of money that Microsoft made from the release of Flight Simulator X. Not huge money by today's standards but it is still a sizable sum. And it means that there were a lot of people out there willing to plunk down the 70$ for the simulator and then a lot more who bought the other items that went with it.

Now an entire industry hangs in the balance. From those companies like CH Products who make controllers and joysticks for Flight Simulation systems to those companies that sell skins for the airplanes and enhancements for the scenery and flight control. Even Jeppesen stands to lose from this closure.

If you want to follow the conversation on this closure, you can check out some of the community sites at:

So far what I am seeing is not pretty and many people are angry. This is a small fish but it just goes to show how intertwined many of the computing companies are.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Apple Users Groups -- Where are they?

One of the interesting items of talk over the years has been the Apple Users Groups and their relevance in today's computing world. For many years, I was a member of the largest users group of its time, Apple Pugetsound Program Library Exchange or A.P.P.L.E. for short. It was just one of thousands of groups in the US at the time.

But then the membership started to wane in about 1987 as did many other groups. But then where membership in our group waned, other groups popped up. One such group was the Willamette Apple Connection or WAC, Inc. as it became known. A small group in southern Oregon, it grew to about 30-40 members and stayed at that number for the duration of its life span.

What is interesting is that the group was successful in spanning the timeframe of the first Internet usage and the closing down of the Apple ][ series production in Cupertino. What spelled a death knell for most groups even before this time, did not spell the end of WAC, Inc. for almost a year and a half. But in time the end did come, primarily because no one wanted to take over the work of doing the newsletter for the group.

But even though they are long gone, the materials the group produced are still alive thanks to the materials being preserved by the owner of the group for more than ten years. Now they are available online for all to see at:

It will be really interesting to go back 50 years past the time frame of the Apple ][ computers and look back at this material and be able to see what the inner workings of the groups were like.

Are We At The Cold Reality Now?

Is this the year where all of the predictions of the abnormal weather patterns comes back to haunt to world full force? So far, in Europe and parts of the United States, this has been the case. Originally from Seattle, our family has never seen weather like this years.

I personally can recall 13 inches of snow in 24 hours on Thanksgiving Day 1987 but that was just a freak storm. Not two weeks of snow and now it is happening again. Snow in Seattle and then ice storms in the mid west stretching from Texas to New Hampshire. It is almost ironic that this is not the only place we have seen the weird weather.

Two weeks ago, 90% of Europe was facing snow including the traditional hot spots in Spain. You can just imagine going to Europe for the vacation and having to walk through 6 inches of snow. But that was no dream, it was reality. And now this week, heavy wind storms. This is not normal and the fact that it lasted so long made it unbearable for many people.

For many years the scientists have been talking about the repercussions of the global warming problem and the massive pollution issues that have been wrecking havoc in countries like China and the US. But no one listened until this year or so. Now everyone is talking about it and there aren't too many folks with any solutions that are viable or even being funded now that the global economy has sank to the point where there is no money or even concern for it.

But we must get back to being concerned about it. We all stand around with our hands in our pockets saying that these things are not our problem or that we are already making an effort or buying so called Carbon Credits. But this is all malarkey and really does not solve the root issue of the problem.

The real problem is that no one person can buy off their carbon imprint or footprint as it is called. You have to make an effort in your own home, life and work place in order to change what is going on.

The first area is the automobile. We have been societies that have traveled by car and truck for just over a hundred years now and we are still using very similar technology to the very first fume spewing jalopies of the the automotive awakening. To answer this, many people are recommending Hybrid cars that run on both gas and electricity. But Hybrid cars are just the start. Hopefully,we can switch totally to hydrogen or electric vehicles sometime in the next 10 years. That will kill a large percentage of the pollution problem especially if countries like India and China get on board with making it a requirement to have electric vehicles instead of gas driven ones.

If we can go to electric vehicles, then the next generation of self driving car would also come along quicker making the full circle of the automotive pollution evaporate because the car would be efficient, electric and would not be crashing like humans do.

The next issue is the deforestation of the world. The removal of forests all over the world has contributed to this weather and pollution problem as well. Having looked at satellite photos of my home state, I can tell you that there are large tracts of land right around my home that have been clear cut. Now this is not unusual activity in the Pacific Northwest, but when it happens in the largest forests in south America at a pace that is unseen since the dawn of mankind, it will definitely change the the world weather patterns. We need not just concerted efforts in the re-greening of massive areas of the world but also we need efforts on the parts of individuals to stop this crazy pattern of weather and the associated pollution.

But as I said earlier, the resolution to the real issues rest not at the corporate level or even the town or city level but with each individual. Re-cycling, not wasting as much or using as much natural resources, using paper instead of plastic, and things like riding your bicycle or walking instead of driving are great places to start. Even mass transit can be better than driving your own vehicle in the pollution arena. Car pooling is the one thing that needs to occur more and more.

But will these things change the weather? Not likely until every person, company, city, and country on this planet makes the effort. Will that ever happen? Well maybe not everyone but the ones that start will be seen as the forerunners of the effort and will wield great influence on those that do not. So just like our new president has called for civic responsibility, so am I. We all need to make the effort. It is up to all of us!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Mac and 25 Years

There it was, the bright shiny machine that we had heard so much about. Brought about with the fanfare of the gleaming Orwellian style Superbowl commercial, we had been just jumping at the bit to get our hands on the new machine. 128k, 400k floppies and its own built in monitor. The Macintosh. That was 1984 and I was a Freshman in college.

Everyone was still enthralled by the PC and the Apple II systems, but the Mac had something that the PC and Apple II's didn't. True Type Fonts. I wanted to write a programming book as I had been teaching some of the professors and other students how to program in BASIC as I had ever since I was a 15 year old kid. It was supposed to be an easy to use book and easy to understand. The Mac facilitated this book like no machine before.

I had written hundreds of programs by that time and probably just as many documents and papers and yet that was the first time that I had an experience with a machine that was memorable. The whole thing of WYSIWYG type fonts on the screen in Mac Write was foreign to me. I was still lost in the dot commands of the Applewriter world. The whole graphical interface thing was cool but at the same time a bit disconcerting for someone who had been using system text on teletypes and CRT based terminals since 1976.

I also found that the disk swapping requirement was just as big a pain as was the Apple II and other systems of the time. This was no break through but then the size of the floppy was. 400k was a lot of space if the file was just plain text, but in using programs that were producing true type WYSIWYG type text, the disk usage was higher. I was a bit discouraged by it but then with a little prodding from my professor and a great deal of usage in the first 2 months, I began to warm up to the idea of the Mac, although I still preferred my Apple II.

In 1990, I bought a IIfx and that was the start of my love hate relationship with the Mac. I loved to hate it just because at that time, the machine was not the simple little box that I had begun to love many years before and the quality was no where near the same level. By the time I got my Quadra 840AV, I was not a happy camper and the Apple was losing its luster in my house. At one point, I even threw out all my Mac manuals and software.

But then came the new generation of machines. The iBook and MacBook series. Once again it was cool to own a Mac and the fact that it was UNIX was even better for me. I once again went back to the Mac camp and felt like it was worth the while. Its almost funny that it only took me 25 years to really feel like a Mac was worth the cost again but then that is primarily because it has taken that long for Apple to produce a truly ground breaking machine.

Now as they celebrate, so does the rest of the world. With their iPods, iPhones, MacBook Airs and other neat toys from Apple, I am sure the world is a better place because of it. Now is 2009 was just like 1984, we would all be better off.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The world is ending! Or wait, Steve Jobs is taking Medical Leave.

Over the past 3 years or so, every time Steve Jobs has sneezed, we in the media have written about it. While he may wonder why that is, the share holders have no doubts as to why. Today they got just proof in the pudding that Apple, Inc. without Steve Jobs is worth less. but that is getting ahead of ourselves.

On January 5th he released one letter due to the fact that, just after announcing that Phil Schiller would deliver the MacWorld Expo keynote, the mainstream media went nuts saying Steve Jobs was dying or dead. Thus he wrote then:

Dear Apple Community,

For the first time in a decade, I’m getting to spend the holiday season with my family, rather than intensely preparing for a Macworld keynote.

Unfortunately, my decision to have Phil deliver the Macworld keynote set off another flurry of rumors about my health, with some even publishing stories of me on my deathbed.

I’ve decided to share something very personal with the Apple community so that we can all relax and enjoy the show tomorrow.

As many of you know, I have been losing weight throughout 2008. The reason has been a mystery to me and my doctors. A few weeks ago, I decided that getting to the root cause of this and reversing it needed to become my #1 priority.

Fortunately, after further testing, my doctors think they have found the cause—a hormone imbalance that has been “robbing” me of the proteins my body needs to be healthy. Sophisticated blood tests have confirmed this diagnosis.

The remedy for this nutritional problem is relatively simple and straightforward, and I’ve already begun treatment. But, just like I didn’t lose this much weight and body mass in a week or a month, my doctors expect it will take me until late this Spring to regain it. I will continue as Apple’s CEO during my recovery.

I have given more than my all to Apple for the past 11 years now. I will be the first one to step up and tell our Board of Directors if I can no longer continue to fulfill my duties as Apple’s CEO. I hope the Apple community will support me in my recovery and know that I will always put what is best for Apple first.

So now I’ve said more than I wanted to say, and all that I am going to say, about this.



But now on the 14th of January, less than 10 days after Steve announced to the world, a new letter to Apple employees circulated announcing a medical leave of absence until the end of June.


I am sure all of you saw my letter last week sharing something very personal with the Apple community. Unfortunately, the curiosity over my personal health continues to be a distraction not only for me and my family, but everyone else at Apple as well. In addition, during the past week I have learned that my health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought.

In order to take myself out of the limelight and focus on my health, and to allow everyone at Apple to focus on delivering extraordinary products, I have decided to take a medical leave of absence until the end of June.

I have asked Tim Cook to be responsible for Apple’s day to day operations, and I know he and the rest of the executive management team will do a great job. As CEO, I plan to remain involved in major strategic decisions while I am out. Our board of directors fully supports this plan.

I look forward to seeing all of you this summer.



While many are not particularly worried and he may not be terribly worried, the share holders obviously are and the stock plunged more than 8% in trading and had to be halted. This fall was not a calculation that Apple, Inc.'s demise is at hand or that Steve may die soon, but more of a statement that the share holders have no faith in those others who run Apple, Inc. on a day to day basis.

This lack of faith does not come without merit either as the past history of the company has shown that the only one who seems to be capable of running the company in an up direction is Steve Jobs, in spite of his now apparent human flaws.

For those who want to write off the company, dont count on it happening this month or even during the medical leave. Steve has built quite the juggernaut in Apple, Inc. and it will surely survive with or without Steve Jobs. After all, Microsoft has survived without Bill Gates so far, so why not Apple, Inc.?