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ATPM 2.07
July 1996




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Apples, Kids, & Attitude

by Robert Paul Leitao,

The Software Reformation

"But Daddy," Jessica protested, "I don't have her in my room and Matthew has her in his." "I know that, Jessica," I responded, "but this one's for Daddy's room. Don't worry, I have something else in mind for you."

This was one of the last conversations we had before the younger two-some of the Apples, Kids & Attitude household left for their nine-day vacation to visit with family. We were on our way to the art store to have a Ukrainian portrait of St. Philomena properly framed. Jessica was correct, there is a different portrait of St. Philomena hanging just above a statuette of the "dear little saint" in Matthew's room. In the great quid-pro-quo of sibling rivalry this meant, according to Jessica's OSPAP (Older Sister Preference Accounting Principles), that the next new item relevant to matters of faith that entered the house was to be given to her. Outside of measuring attention time, Dads don't usually factor into sibling accounting systems. I did have something else in mind for Jessica, but more on that a little later.

Their nine-day vacation was to be the longest period of time I have been separated from either Matthew or Jessica since they arrived in this world, so I planned to take this time to do some things that I had been postponing for awhile - have the house cleaned, schedule some elective surgery and do what seemed like a dozen full loads of laundry.

All this of course, with the exception of the surgery, could wait until after I unwrapped my new copy of Adobe PageMaker 6.0, downloaded the GIF89 plug-ins for Photoshop and Illustrator from the Adobe home page, and set to work updating my various web pages.

After several months of being enamored with the World Wide Web it was comforting to be reacquainted with my senses. Prior to my "great web exploration" I operated under one basic software rule: If it doesn't work right, I don't want it. I finally took time to remove the various web-related beta copies of applications, plug-ins and browsers from my hard drives and went about putting some long lost normalcy back into my computing life.

Over the years I have come to rely on Adobe Systems for quality products that help me to do quality work. I had waited for this version of PageMaker to allow time for the company to fully "digest" the Aldus merger and more fully integrate the application into the Adobe product line.

As a Mac enthusiast who has spent a lot of time working with graphics-related software, my instincts told me it was just a matter of time before web publishing became simply another form of output with unique attributes for people wishing to express an idea, make a point, or simply communicate in a more interactive, graphic intensive environment. Adobe products are moving us quite quickly toward that reality.

Very soon there will be no more of a need to know HTML, Java or their successors than there is for us to know programming languages in order to use a Mac. This makes me happy. Each of us have different talents and skills and while we can always learn something new, I think it's better that people who have the talent to communicate an idea effectively through creative design should be able to do so without having to learn code. Conversely, people who have a skill with computer programming, efficient code compiling and authoring useful applications shouldn't have the added burden of needing to be mass media graphic designers, other than the important design skills needed to create a comfortable user interface.

The software user and software writer should simply need to communicate with one another. I'm not promoting ignorance. Applications need to be written with an understanding of the needs of the user and the user needs to appreciate the challenge involved in maintaining a balance between efficiency and features in the writing of applications.

The World Wide Web and other forms of interactive electronic communication will ultimately replace most paper print. For this reason, electronic interactive communication will adopt many of the valuable lessons learned from print since the invention of the press. Over the past year I have seen very few web sites that actually convey their intended message in an efficient, well organized way.

As a heavy web surfer I think graphic "bells and whistles" are nice but if it takes me more than a couple of minutes to find what I want or if it takes too long for pages to load I'd rather go elsewhere. As of this writing the vast majority of homes and small businesses access the internet from 14.4 and 28.8 modems. This may well change and change quickly. Until then, web pages need to accommodate the limits of current transmission speeds and relay the intended message much more efficiently.

For me, software is an equity investment. If I wish to communicate in word, sight or sound, I need the appropriate software tools. It's also something I save money to buy. This is another reason I like the Adobe product line. Each application offered by this company satisfies a specific need. Each product works well on its own and allows me to work with a document between their various applications as my budget and skills allow. I acquired a copy of Photoshop when I began to work with photos, then a copy of Illustrator to create non-photo images. I purchased PageMill to create pages for the web and now a copy of PageMaker to help me bring the various elements of my web projects into an easy-to-read and use graphic layout.

We are at the dawning of a new software reformation. Java Applets, OpenDoc "parts," and more open standards are just the beginning. This will hopefully bring an end to unnecessary "bloatware." I very much miss my copy of Microsoft Word 5.1a and I prefer it to that application's most recent upgrade. I very much like ClarisWorks 4.0 and I'm very much looking forward to the 5.0 upgrade which will make it an OpenDoc container application. Applications such as Photoshop, which have allowed for third-party plug-ins, have been a forerunner of changes to come. Also, more derivatives of existing high-end software (packaged for home users, reduced in complexity, memory requirements and retail price) will also be coming to market. This will allow home users and home budgets less limited access to some of the creativity tools formerly reserved for high-end, professional applications. Specular's 3D Web Workshop is an example of this trend.

I like what I see. More of what I want, less of what someone, somewhere simply wanted to give me. And, the opportunity for my software tools and resources to grow as my skills and budget allow.

Well, the nine days are almost over. I didn't get to much house cleaning, the laundry is at least half-way done (washed, dried, but sitting in mountainous piles on my oversized kitchen table). Thankfully, the surgery went well. As I'm writing this, I recall that prior to surgery I had a very simple prayer. All I asked is that the surgery go well, with as little discomfort and pain as possible. I'm grateful that I was heard.

As for Jessica, as I mentioned, I had some things in mind for her, and for Matthew, too. While they were on vacation though, I thought about ways I could be a better parent, more responsive to their requests, more receptive of their ideas, and less apt to try and decide everything for them. Perhaps it's a little bit of a reformation for me, too. Just a little while ago I got out a hammer, a nail, and the new portrait of St. Philomena. It looks good in Jessica's room, just above the night stand next to her bed.

Maybe, without saying a word, I was heard then, too.

"Apples, Kids and Attitude" is © 1996 by Robert Paul Leitao,

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