Creative Mac

Essential No. 5: iQfx 2 from QSound










Essential No. 8: Virtual PC

Road Hog: Some Like It Soft

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Hey, it's not all work on the road, is it? There's time for play, and one of the great joys of massive hard drives is that you can fit a butt-load of perfectly legal downloaded MP3 files on them.
iQfx 2.0 from QSound Labs, a longtime leader in providing spatial stereo effects, is a dandy little plugin originally designed to enhance RealAudio files, but also works wonders with MP3s. They call it 3D sound, and even on the crappy little built-in PowerBook speakers, I'm forced to agree.

It's really incredibly simple to use. Load it up, and then, in your Sound control panel, select iQ as your Sound Output device. It makes a huge difference. You can go to to hear before and after samples. Take my word for it that they're not faking it. You can also download the free version and take it for a spin with Real Player, which is what I did and STILL wasn't prepared for how much better my MP3s sound with the full, $29.95 version. I can't imagine why you'd want to have a PowerBook and not have iQfx.

PowerBooks work hard, and they play hard, but for some reason, they don't always Sleep well. My 1999 vintage G3/400 alternated between never going to sleep no matter what I tried and never waking up no matter what I tried. I discovered an alternative that works like a charm, a delightful piece of shareware called Sleeper, from St. Clair Software.

The most important difference it has over the built-in version for me is that it works, which ought to be enough. But it also works better, an added bonus. It offers a very frugal screen saver, dimming the screen as you prescribe, but doing so in such a gentle fashion that it won't cut off your Internet connection. Same with spinning down the hard drive (which I don't tell it to do). Customizable, reliable, loaded with features, and only $25. Download and pay up.

Startup Doubler

Startup Doubler
When I was constantly restarting my PowerBook because it crashed whenever it went to sleep, I was going nuts over how long it took to reboot. I have no idea why it takes so much longer for PowerBooks to boot than similarly powered desktop units, but they do. I thought there had to be a better way, and there is.

It's called Startup Doubler by Marc Moini, and that's pretty much what it does. This is a very, very good thing. The picture above, aside from telling you that I paid my shareware fee, also offers an excellent tip that works well for desktop computers too. Your OS spends a lot of time polling the RAM when you start up, a total waste since bad RAM usually means your computer won't start at all. You'll notice a big difference just by doing that, but a bigger one from adding Startup Doubler.

Virtual PC
Another one from Connectix, I think Virtual PC is an essential for a couple of reasons. One is that, in my opinion anyway, you need at least a G3 PowerBook to run it at the speed it needs. The other is an old saying that I've seen pop up in a couple of sig files lately: "Mac for creativity, Linux for development, Windows for Solitaire." Yes, it's worth the money just to run the Microsoft Hearts Network.

The amount of money depends on which of 5 flavors of Virtual PC you run, from PC-DOS through Red Hat Linux, which are included in the purchase. For example, the versions for Windows 98 runs under $170, and the Windows 2000 version runs around $240. In all seriousness, these are serious tools and offer the absolute best of both worlds. They're full-blown Mac applications; they allow drag and drop of files between platforms; they support both Mac and Windows peripherals; and they manage to keep Windows where it belongs: one window as a subset of the Mac at best. (You can run Virtual PC full screen, but don't. It really works best as a Window.) If the point of being a Road Hog is to blast past the limits imposed by any kind of connectivity challenge, you have to include this as part of your arsenal.

Running Windows on a Mac gives you a genuine appreciation for the strengths of each platform (Solitaire on Windows, everything else on Mac) and allows you to have access to fun things like Napster that really just don't work as well on Macs. Hey, leave it to Windows users to master the technology of thievery, right?

Just kidding. I support Napster, but I also support gratuitous jabs at Microsoft, to the extent that any jokes about Windows and thievery could conceivably be gratuitous.

Coolest of all? Virtual PC is AppleScriptable. Which means you can run an AppleScript on the Mac side to call up Hearts in Windows. And I do.

But I also use it to get real work done in things like GIS mapping for government clients, almost exclusively a Windows/Linux enterprise. I also inevitably use Virtual PC as the trump card when some Dell-toting weinie tries to convince me that he's not a total loser for using a peecee laptop because of all the cool apps that won't run on Macs. Wrong again, punk. Thank you, Connectix.

Road Hog Mailbag
First, I have to thank you guys for continuing to write. The response has been overwhelming. I promise I'll get back to everyone individually soon. In the meantime, here are a couple of belated responses.

Referring to last week's Road Hog, Doug Oucharek writes, "You missed one important (to me that is) point in your article: The 5300 trade-up is only available in the U.S. This was true of the last trade up deal as well. I'm in Canada, which means I am saddled with the 5300 debacle pretty much forever (who would want it?)."

Correct on all counts, Doug. I blew that call, and so did Apple.

The 5300 upgrade program that Apple is hosing Doug out of (note the Canadian locution of "hosing"—I'm trying to be more inclusive here) has a couple of days left on it. The response has been so overwhleming that there's a considerable backlog. As long as you have a case number before the end of the month, they'll take care of you.

Ed Keighron wrote in with some good news for those who are able to participate in the upgrade program. It turns out that I heard wrong about Apple shipping your new laptop in your old box. They'll send yours out in a new box, as they should. As I told Ed, I wasn't shocked to discover some inaccurate information, since I had to try four people before I found anyone who even knew about the program. That was nearly two weeks ago, of course. They all know now.

Finally, several folks wrote me, concerned that Apple wasn't letting them do any customizing of the new machines from their bare bones configurations. This is actually good news. Take advantage of the wicked good deal on the trade-in before August 31, then go back to the first Road Hog article and buy everything there with the money you saved.

And keep those cards and letters coming!

Tim Wilson, Man About Town™, is the Producer of Plug-in Central, one of the Core Connections here at Digital Media Net. Saddle up and write him at [email protected].


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