Andy Ihnatko

MacUser / October 1995 Column

Natural Born Filler

This month's column is coming to you live from beautiful seaside Falmouth, Massachusetts, where the temperature of the water is a bracing 58 degrees, the wiliness of the native clam population is still no match for the superior intellect of the locals mucking in the surf with their rakes, the chances of an atomically mutated giant sea creature heaving itself onshore and causing bad vibes for beachgoers are remote at best, and the children are far above average. And if my desire to put the PowerBook down and return to my Tom Clancy and my sound track of Quadrophenia is so great that I should yield to the temptation to steal a line or two from Garrison Keillor, well, that's to be excused, because this is my annual Vacation column. I'm sorry, but it's July and far too nice outside to do a real column.

No, this time out I'm just going to present updates to the previous year's columns. Partly this is because I have a genuine desire to make needed amendments and amplifications, but the best explanation for why I do this is that nobody's ever actually stopped me. So let's start off with the traditional Arts & Crafts segment.

Fish, dear readers. I say, fish. When on that balmy spring afternoon in 1992 I looked to my shelf and saw not a Macintosh 512K but a thing I could dismantle and keep goldfish in, little did I know that with the release of my Macquarium(TM) plans and directions, I would strike a chord that would resonate throughout the Mac community for years to come. Nowadays, every week brings mail from new Macquarium(TM) owners, delighted with the fact that they now own a two-gallon fish tank in the shape of a classic Macintosh.

And yet, like Alexander looking out upon the sea, my eyes were on the next horizon. After nearly a year of research and failed prototypes, I'm finally able to go public with the next generation of Macquarium(TM) technology: Macquarium 95. (Hey, I figured at least one functional product ought to ship with that name this year . . . .) In addition to a complete overhaul and rewrite of the Classiquarium plans and instructions, Macquarium 95 marks the debut of the Macquarium Valdez. It's so named because, like its namesake, the Valdez is a supertanker (with five times the original's capacity) and had similar problems with leakage and killing aquatic life. But those last two problems were licked with the third prototype, and I'm confident that you can indeed allow your sea otters to gambol and frolic around my Valdez without reservation.

Macquarium 95 will be free (but thoroughly copyrighted, so you just watch your step) and will be available from all online entities, including MacUser's Web page. Probably. OK, technically I haven't actually finished writing it, but it needs only 5,000 piffling words and a few dozen illustrations, and I'm confident I can have the whole thing ready in the two months it'll take for this column to see print. I think. Well, just keep in mind that Macquarium 95 is free, done because, dammit, I care.

OK, onward with the recaps. Not a few among you questioned the wisdom of my ratting on Apple's many indefensible copyright violations (August), and one of you felt strongly enough about the matter to set fire to my pair of Wozniak and Jobs garden gnomes under cover of darkness. Well, just to demonstrate that I'm willing to play both sides of the street -- and that, unlike certain ivory-tower members of my profession, I'm willing and able to cave right in under the threat of physical violence -- I call the world's attention to the figure below. Behold the visage of Microsoft's Bob. Why the smug look? Because Bob knows that his image was stolen lock, stock, and spectacles from one of the many trademarked images of Jerry Ellis, regionally beloved proprietor of Building #19, a chain of insurance-salvage stores in the Northeast. It breaks my heart to see an unfeeling corporate behemoth take advantage of the man who brought a generation of New Englanders the legendary Wet Underwear Sale; the man who bought all the defective windows from Boston's largest skyscraper and sold them as Winnebago-sized glass coffee tables; the man, ladies and gentlemen, who -- without a single thought of self -- will sell you a complete smokehouse-flavored tuxedo for $25. Jerry, the author of this column is behind you in this: Stick it to 'em for all it's worth. (Note to readers: Hey, they sent Capone away for tax evasion; this could work . . . .)

July's column on the politicizing of the Internet generated a lot of positive response but raised two oft-repeated questions. First, people wanted to know why I didn't mention the Web sites for Congress ( and when I provided various Net resources for keeping up with Congressional activity. Well, at the time, the Feds advised me that the sites weren't quite finished yet, and besides, I was a little pressed for space. Boatloads of government services are available from both sites. If you lack Net access, call the Federal Information Center instead (800-688-9889 from most of the U.S.). Ask the human operators any question at all, and they'll direct you to the appropriate agency. Quite ginchy.

People also wanted to know why I didn't name names. Actually, I did, but because of the aforementioned space restrictions, they were removed during editing. Because the Communications Decency Act did indeed pass through the Senate, I am now thrilled to single out Senators Gorton (Moron-WA), Coats (Idiot-IN), and Exon (Disgrace to the Entire Concept of Congress-NE) and mention in passing Senators Byrd and Heflin (Jumping Aboard the Bandwagon Late in Cynical Attempt to Acquire Political Capital-WV and -AL, respectively.) Terribly unfair of me, sure, but hey, this isn't Newsweek. To demonstrate that I'm bashing the pinheads and not the states, I'll point out that our two Democratic senators here in Massachusetts were split, with only Kennedy choosing to defend basic freedom. The day this act is signed into law, I really won't be able to get any work done at all.

As for April's column, well, all I can say is that I should have known better. I was burned once before by writing an April Fool's column and counting on people to read through to the end to make sure they knew it was just a joke. See, in 1991 or thereabouts, I wrote an April prank for the Boston Computer Society's Mac magazine, claiming that original 128K Macs were being recalled by Apple for being fire hazards. People who got beyond the first 400 words read that the problem was caused by the CRT's electron gun suddenly firing backward and trying to melt off all the names of its original designers (who had been fired from Apple). Most people got the gag. Five hundred people didn't and called Apple, which in turn asked me some rather direct questions. Six months later, when I'd forgotten the incident, a national columnist was silly enough to take the story at face value and the whole mess started all over again.

So as you've all probably gathered by now, I'm indeed still a MacUser columnist. Not wishing to embarrass those who didn't read the last line of the April column, I will merely thank them for the kind e-mails, in which they promised to read my new Windows column in Field & Stream.

Finally, my sincere apologies to Keep It Simple Systems, which thanked me kindly for the praise I gave its SunRunner PowerBook solar panels back in January and then asked when the Belgium I would be getting around to returning its demo unit. I have showered them with McDonald's gift certificates and have humbly requested forgiveness. Digital mail I can dig. Analog mail I'm not so good with.

Oops . . . on that note, without the benefit of the panels, I'm getting my second low-battery warning here and gotta wrap things up . . . damn! OK! Andy Ihnatko's Colossal Waste of Bandwidth will be appearing soon on MacUser's Web site! Damn! Now that I'm at the last line, I can say what I really think about those gulliblead0sui9u0df9as

MacUser columnist Andy Ihnatko can be e-mailed at

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