KansasFest '96 Report

I had decided to not write anything about KansasFest 96 until GenieLamp was released. I was dissapointed with the content in GenieLamp so I will embellish on what happened. Most of what I will write will revolve around me so please bare with it.

Day 0: Wednesday, July 17th

KansasFest...an event which I heard is a "must go" for any Apple II user. I have never been to one before so I wasn't sure exactly what to expect.

I finally arrived at Avila after a 17 hour drive. Road time to drive >from Washington, DC to Kansas City is about 17 hours. This doesn't include meals, bathroom breaks, and the overnight hotel stay in St. Louis. It was about 3:30 p.m. when I got to campus. When I was checking in, I was half expecting to see Cindy Adams. I have never met her before, but she seems to be heavily involved with setting up KansasFest. I was very surprised to not see her. I enquired to ask if my roommate arrived. I was told that the man in front of me was my roommate. I thought it was pretty funny that we arrived at virtually the same time. I introduced myself to my roommate, Kevin Thornton. I had no idea who he was, but later found out he used to be a dealer who sold Apple II hardware and software.

Due to some of my computer equipment that I brought with me, I had brought along a dolly from work to cart my equipment to my room. With the dolly, I could bring all the stuff I had in my in two trips. Kevin had tons of junk: 2 IIgs systems, Laser 128, //e system, Mac system, boxes of software and hardware, and spare computer parts. Kevin was really thankful that he could use my cart to bring up his boxes.

While Kevin was unloading his car, I went ahead to set up my computer. My regular Apple RGB monitor for my IIgs is having problems--I think it has a power supply problem since the screen likes to jump around. Luckily I had a spare monitor that I could bring with me. This spare monitor is a relative new addition to my collection of computer hardware. It is a SVGA monitor; but I have a second sight card so I can plug it right to my IIgs. Oh, did I mention that the monitor is a 19 incher? On the desk in our room, I had my IIgs with a 19" monitor on one side and my roommate his Mac with a 21" monitor on the other side. The desk was very well balanced.

Since I let Kevin use my cart, he allowed me to use his Internet account (he lives in Kansas City so it was a local service provider). When he tried logging in when he arrived, the conection didn't work. Since I deal with problems like this at work, I reconfigured his Free PPP to properly connect with his provider. He was telling me that a technician from his provider told him to change all the settings the day before. Unlimited free access to work ended up being a nice benefit later during KansasFest.

Most of what happened next was a blur. I remember going to down to cafeteria for dinner to get a snack--all I remember was that Auri "Ramalama-ding-dong" Rahimzadeh (quoted name courtesy of Diz) arrived and sat at the table I was at. He had walked in with a Powerbook under his arm. Even though I have never met Auri before, I some how pictured that was him. It seems like I was the only one at the table who never saw GUS. He booted his Powerbook and showed that the rumored IIgs emulator was real. This wasn't an offical presentation, but I have to say that I wasn't all that impressed. Sure, it was neat seeing a IIgs running on a Mac, but I have no access to a Power Mac so it didn't seem to useful to me. If GUS was compiled to work on the 68k Mac, I would have been more excited. I don't know if i have become cynical, but it is hard to get excited over software if you don't have the hardware to use it.

At this point, I would like to thank everybody who gave me rides while I was at KansasFest. I had driven a long way and didn't feel like driving for a days since I would have an equally long journey home. I hitched a ride with Diz to go to KC Masterpice, a local restaurant. Diz is a funny, funny guy--if you get a chance, take a ride in his van with him. Just don't try to have a dueling match with playing with AC and radio controls because you will lose. Among the many conversations at KS Masterpiece, I met someone who liked P8KeyChange, one of the programs I have released for the IIgs. We both agree that we didn't like Apple's decision to use the "8" key to boot into ProDOS 8. That was one of the reasons why P8KeyChange was written.

Upon arriving back to Aliva, I pretty much staying in my room since everybody else was wandering around. Cindy Adams came up to me and ask if I just arrived. I was thinking--where were you earlier? I was one of the first to arrive. Cindy "Mother Hen" Adam's excuse for her absense was she was getting food. I guess having a 19" monitor on one's IIgs would cause a bit of attention. I was approached by the Seven Hills team and asked if they could use my monitor for demoing their software. I orginally wasn't planning to attend their sessions, but there wasn't anything else interesting planned for those times so I said they could use my system. I probably should have been impressed: Ewen Wannop, Richard Bennett, and Dave Hecker were asking me, Geoff Weiss, to use my computer system to demo their new updates.

I found out from these guys and Nate Trost that trying to make money on the Apple II just won't cut it any more. I learned that is any software top 200 sales that it was doing well. That made me sick to my stomach. I have a whole bunch of ideas of programs to write/finish that I thought could sell 1,000 copies each. At $30 per program, that is $30,000 minus advertising, manuals, disks, etc... It would end up with a nice profit. Reality hit me at KansasFest where $30,000 became $6,000 before supplies and advertising. I became really depressed.

What I was thinking was "what am I doing here?" I drove half way round the U.S. to find that one of my child hood dreams suddenly shattered. It was Dave Lyons who told me in 1992 that "alot can happen in a year." Not only can alot happen in year, but alot can happen in just a few hours. A quick look at the last few hours showed that there were alot of people with Macs. I looked at my system: all I have is IIgs, enhanced with a Zip GSX, SCSI, and more. Why am I investing my money in this outdated technology, I thought. I had a good feeling about the Second Sight. Too bad Sequential dropped the ball for support. Tony DIaz commented that he didn't put a SS in his GS since the last KansasFest. Maybe I should dump the GS and get a Mac-those Power Macs will be able to emulate GS software, but then I will also find software that can take full advantage of the Mac's capability. Not only was the state of the GS market depressing, but it seems like there was nobody at KansasFest. All I remember reading about previous KansasFest letters was "You have to go...it was so cool!" It seemed like only 60 people were there. The session schedule looked uninteresting...maybe I should go home now. Oops, already promised Seven Hills my IIgs all day tomorrow.

I was ready to stop development of all the sofware I had was to about to throw what I had done (bugs and all) into the public domain. I finally started to have some free time in my life to get back to coding and it looked futile.

By this point, I've seen GUS, a ROM 04, an Apple Ethernet Card, a bunch of cards that Tony Diaz designed, and how commercially unsuccessful the Apple II is.

I hung around with Eric Sheppard, Greg Templeton, Nate Trost, and Burger Bill for the rest of the evening (well, next morning). They all have real jobs writing programs all day. I'm glad my job is not a "computer programmer." Greg mentioned he has designed a new animation format that is faster than the "current standards." I was awe-strucken how simple his format. He said that he hopes to port the final code to the IIgs one day.

We all headed back to our rooms around 3:00 to sleep for the night.

I didn't expect to write so much about the first day I was there. I guess that were alot of feelings running through my mind the first day I was there. Future days will have less emotion and more content.

Day 1: Thursday, July 18th

I decided to get some sleep so I skipped breakfast and the first session. The second morning session was the Spectrum 2.1 upgrade. This was hosted by Dave Hecker from Seven Hills and Ewen Wannop, programmer. Since my IIgs was the unit which the demo was displayed on, I attended this event. I have never seen Spectrum before so I didn't know what to expect. My first impression was the new features seemed useless. I ended up buying Spectrum at the end of KansasFest and have to say the new featured give Spectrum alot of potential. Custom scripts can draw on text and graphics on the super high-res screen and sections can be made to be "clickable" with the mouse. Functionality of Hypercard was added to Spectrum. Since Spectrum will probably be the only comm program that will ever get future upgrades, I think it should be the number one comm program of choice for the Apple IIgs user. Oh, if anybody really cares what all the new features are in Spectrum, I can post them. The best part of the presentation was when of the KansasFest attendees fell asleep and started snoring. Cindy Adams was trying to get someone to wake him up. I think everybody was being polite by letting him sleep. Diz, being the comedian-wanna-be that he is, decided to stand next to the guy, leaned down so he was near the guy's ear and loudly said "I have a question!" Laughter erupted by all--I'm not sure if the guy woke up by us laughing or by Diz.

Lunch came after this session. I finally had a chance to meet Joe Kohn in person. I have had e-mail conversations with him since 1992. After I introduced myself (I had failed to put on my name tag that morning), the first thing he said was that he couldn't find any bugs in the HTML editor I had ported to Hypercard GS. At first I was a little confused, then I remembered that I told him that there were a few bugs in the program back when I released it last year. I had told him back then that you really had to look for the bugs to find them. I later told him that he would have been a lousy beta tester. I think I should point out that the bugs were in the original code, not any that I had introduced. I just didn't feel like fixing them since I figured no one would come across them. Of course the other argument is if nobody uses the program then nobody will see the bugs.

After lunch was the introduction of the GraphicWriter III upgrade. This was hosted by Dave Hecker and Richard Bennett, programmer. My IIgs and 19" monitor was used for this session as well. Unfortunately, my Zip was set to normal speed and the hard drive they used for this event didn't have the Zip Control Panel installed. The entire demonstration was shown in Normal Speed. I do have to say the program was very useable on a 2.8 Mhz IIgs. I would hate to see Microsoft Word run on a 2.8 Mhz PC or Mac :) Since I am happy with AppleWorks GS as my word processor and page layout of choice, I really wasn't too interested in that session. If I ever need to do some major page layout work on a IIgs, I would buy GraphicWriter III since it does have some capabilities not in AppleWorks GS. For the little writing I do on a IIgs, AppleWorks GS suits me fine.

I attended Mike Westerfield's and Erick Wagner's session on Robotics. Back when I was high school, I had wanted to control a robot through the 16-pin joystick port inside the IIgs. Obviously this was what the session was showing. Unfortunately, my interests have changed and I no longer want to do that. It was fun seeing a project that Mike Westerfield did to interact a robot with his IIgs. He had a skeleton which had eyes that glowed and dimmed, mouth that opened and closed, and a speaker in his head to play sounds that would have come through the GS speaker. Fortunately, I had enough electronics classes in my college days to follow along with the discussion. I did like finding out about what kind of motors are used and how they can be controlled. Even though it wasn't practical, it was loads of fun. It did get noisy when Mike let loose 5 robots to roam around the room.

After supper, Gary Utter gave the Keynote Address. He mentioned that Genie was "the" source for the Apple II users to get information about the Apple II. Since most of the attendees are Genie users, I guess it must be so. I actually took offense to the comment since I exclusively use the Internet, specifically the news groups such as csa2. There was alot of agreement that csa2 was a very lousy source of information. That was the same time period when there was 3 month on-going flame-fest. Gary Utter added that the future of Genie looked bleak and new alternatives must be found in case Genie close their doors for good. IMO, moderated mailing lists, and a telnet-able chat site would be a good start to expanding the exclusive Genie functions. All we need to find is someone who knows how to set this stuff up and a server to host it.

After the keynote address, Wolfenstein 3D was demoed. The game ran great on a GS with a Zip. It was very playable--the tearing on a Second Sight screen wasn't bad at all. The graphics looked awesome. The graphics in the game looked much than the stuff that showed up on comp.binaries.apple2 a year ago. It surprised me to find that much of the game was written in C. Of course all the animation routines were written (and rewritten and rewritten to be faster) in assembly. When the game is released, it won't have the sound effects that can be found on the other computer platforms. All the sound effects have to be re-recorded to prevent any copyright violations.

Bite-the-bag was scheduled for the evening but it was canceled due to a number of people heading off to the movies. Pretty much everybody went to see ID4. I spent some time that evening trying to modify C code with Chris Budewig.

I learned some techniques in how to hack Appletalk Networks.

At one point that night, I started hearing the song "The Night Santa Went Crazy." My ears perked up, I thought "Cool! Weird Al!" I wandered down to wear the music was and was in Tony Diaz's room. All I remeber was Eric Sheppard and Bill Heineman seeing Weird Al songs-- what a nightmare.

Tony was having fun with "toy of the year." This year he brought a train whitle. It is a wooden whistle that sounds like a train whistle. Lucky for me, I was awake whenever he sounded it in the wee hours of the morning.

Earlier that day, it was proven that an Apple IIgs could work with Appletalk over a Novell Network with the Apple Ethernet card. It was commented that the card was designed really well...too bad it was never released. Parts of the code on the card was disassembled that night which might lead to a third party producing that card??? <--my rumor, take it with a whole lot of grains of salt (in other words, don't really expect it).

I think I should point out by the end of that day, I was upset about the Apple II and I was once again happy and proud to be a IIgs owner. I probably won't finish any projects that I have announced I was working on. There is alot of new stuff that I want to start (and hopefully this time finish).

I think I went to bed at 4 a.m.

Day 2: Friday, July 19th

Once again, I decided to get some sleep so I skipped breakfast and most of the first session. The first session was a presentation from Apple Computers. Since there is nothing new the Apple II world from Apple Computers, I figured it had to be all Mac-related. I caught the tale end of the discussion and it was just Mac OS 8.0 hype. There was a free CD to demo what new capabilities are in Mac OS 8.0. Since the Mac I use at work doesn't have a CD-ROM drive, I suddenly wondered why I even grabbed a copy. I ended up looking at the demo on Chris Budewig's Powerbook 5300. Mac OS 8.0 has some nice features, but it won't run on 68k machines.

I went to Dr. Stephen Buggie's Disk II and diagnostic session for the second morning session. I was a bit disappointed with it. Dr. Buggie knew how to operate the software he had, but didn't seem to quite understand what the software was actually doing. It seems I knew more about how to diagnose problems with Apple IIs in many cases (and I don't use any special software for my diagnoses). He, of course, has the advantage of knowing how to fix some of the hardware problems (like disk drive alignment).

Lunch wasn't too special. I skipped the next set of sessions. I know how to program Hypercard GS and do desktop publishing. Soldering would have been the only interest, but it was part III of a set of sessions. I probably would have missed alot since I didn't go to the first three.

The second set of afternoon session had Tony Diaz design a portable GS. He began the sessions by showing the result of one that he made a while ago. He then proceeded to explain how someone could make a portable GS with a Mac Portable case. I found this very intriguing--the entire session was spur-of-the-moment. About a total of five minutes of the session was us watching him drill out the Mac Portable case to remove all of the existing struts and support structures. The only part of the portable design that was left to the imagination was how to handle a LCD screen. Currently, there is no company that is producing a 640 x 200 screen that works with an analog CGA-compatible RGB signal. This session now gives me motivation to start modifying my GS. I want to put a disk drive inside my GS, similar to the ROM 04 unit. Fortunately, I have an Innerdrive so I have a basic support structure for adding a floppy drive. Unfortunately, the the actual hard drive in my Innerdrive is like 1.5 to 2 inches high so there is no space to stick a floppy 3.5" drive. Now I am debating if I should tear apart my new APS SCSI drive and assemble it inside my GS. Maybe I should wait for the 1 year warranty to expire... I now know that I properly will need a dremel to have the floppy insert in the front of my case. It should be cool having a Woz GS with an internal floppy drive :) This session helped me being Apple II motivated again. Hey, why buy a Mac when you can have a an internal drive in the GS?

Dinner that night included a Joe Kohn Roast. The evening included a number of appropriate Dr. Tom vs. Joe Kohn comments. I was surprised that Joe was given such nice treatment for a roast. It seemed like a Joe Kohn "praise" more than a "roast." Diz kept the evening spirited with humor (and sometimes a lack thereof).

I bought Faxanation from Ego Systems. I was going to test the software out with another IIgs user, but I ended skipping out on the test. What was more important than playing with Faxanation? Read on...

That night, one of the beta testers of GS/TCP showed up. He had never gotten the TCP beta software to work and I was interested in seeing how it works. First of all, his copy of GNO 2.0.6b was really unstable. Since I have set up a UNIX system before, I had a clue what was needed to get TCP/IP running on his machine. I went ahead and set it up to call my work for a slip connection. Without going into details, it turns out that the GNO shell was corrupted.

I think I went to bed at 5:30. Once agian, a horrible disapointment with my look at the Apple II.

Day 3: Saturday, July 20th

Since I was going to bed later and later, I deciced to sleep in some more. I skiped breakfast and the vendor's fair. I was up, showered, and dressed in time for lunch.

After lunch was the product introductions. GUS was the first to be shown. There was alot of "ooohs" and "aaaahs." I still wasn't too impressed. I have no need to run out to buy a power Mac just to use GUS. Since I invested in a Second Sight card, I am hoping I can get some use out of that (well, besides being able to connect a 19" monitor to a GS :).

Other product announcements were an update to ProTerm Mac and new products >from Shareware Solutions II. I was very surprised to see that Joe and Diz took the initiave to start selling CD-ROM collections of past publications. I would have thought it been a big flop, but subsequent reports have said that sales were doing well. Maybe investing in a CD-ROM isn't such a bad idea. Heck, a 8x drive is only $299. I can still remember when a single speed drive dropped to the low price of $699. Eight years can really make a difference.

Random side thought:
It was eight years ago when I first saw a CD-ROM connected to a GS. It was System 3.1 and the computer was booted from the floppy since 1.25 megs wasn't enough memory to mount both a hard drive and a CD-ROM drive. I couldn't believe Apple designed their SCSI driver that way.

A bunch of us headed off to "Jess and Jims" for a steak dinner. Auri "Rama-lama-ding-dong" was screwing around with the TV set in the bar (we can't take that guy anywhere...). The bar also had a train that circled around the room. The portions of food were enormous. I was sitting at the same table as Richard Bennett and Ewen Wannop. It was pretty funny hearing Richard try to mimick someone from Kansas. He definitely sounded like someone from Australia mimicking someone from Kansas. At the end of the meal when we were pooling all the money together, most of us got up at the same time to figure how much we owed. I heard Richard and Ewen commenting on how Americans like to rush things. I found this an interesting trait that other nationalities see Americans. For me, that is an in-grained habbit that I don't think will change ever.

Well, that evening, my impression of KansasFest changed 180 degrees. I'm under non-disclosure agreements to explain all of my reasons.

I met a whole lot of people who actually appreciated me. This came to me as a total shock. I can now wholeheartedly recommend that KansasFest was a great decision on my part to attend. There is something that pretty much something anyone might like. The "average" IIgs user will learn alot and be dazzeled at the new release of products. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot for the "savvy" IIgs user. There also isn't a whole lot for the "Programmer" or "Developer" either unless you are demoing something you did.

I left for home on Sunday. Cindy "Worry Wart" Adams wanted me to make sure I drove home safely. That was a nice touch--thanks Cindy. Even though noon was checkout time, I didn't finish getting my car packed until 12:15. I wasn't even the last one out. My roommate was slower than me to pack up his belongings.

I know I was harping on the doom and gloom of things. In actuality, that is probably how every IIgs developer feels. I use UNIX, WFW 3.11, Windows 95, and Mac OS at work--I guess sticking with 10+ year old technology at home isn't too bad. I've made some great acquaintenances those few days and I am definitely going back next year. If everything I hear works out, there should be alot of interesting surprises--it is one thing reading about it on the net, it is another actually experiencing yourself.

A good time was had by all.