Sunday, February 19, 2012

Betrayed again!

An esteemed colleague, LaVerne Gonzales, offered me nuggets of wisdom while I was still very much a rookie. One of them was, "There are two kinds of computer users: those who have lost data, and those who will." I don't assume that the wisdom originated with him, but he was the vessel through which it was passed to me.

He was speaking of the importance of backing up one's computer files. Still a novel idea in the mid- to late-'80s, when personal computing was in its adolescence. I once had a backup regimen involving over 100 floppy disks, and Saturday morning was the scheduled time. Automated backup systems, such as TimeMachine, have since taken the drudgery out of long backup sessions

As a bemusedly graying veteran of computers and teaching, I add a corollary.
There are two kinds of computer users: those who have been betrayed, and those who will be.
My first taste of betrayal was with Silicon Beach Software's SuperPaint. SuperPaint was the initial design software used to develop The Book of Phyz c. 1988. But it seemed to get slower and buggier with each new release. By 1992, I had to jump ship to Deneba's Canvas. Canvas was once a Mac-only application. In 1992, it was tighter and nimbler than SuperPaint.

Back in the bad-old (pre-iPhone) days, software would sometimes originate on the Mac platform, become popular, get ported to Windows, then cease to be developed for Mac. And so it was with Canvas. ACDSee bought Deneba and killed off Canvas for Mac.

They recently introduced a Mac OS product intended to compete with Apple's Aperture and Adobe's Lightroom. I was moved to let them know exactly why no Mac user would knowingly choose to do business with them. The product is alive, but I know of no one who uses it.

But I have tons of curriculum material in Canvas X format with no viable alternative software available. As of Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion), Canvas X is dead. The pain of that harsh reality lies in the near future.

Another betrayal came in the form of a test-generating program called measureUP. By the time I bought into it, it had become LXR•Test. By the time LXR decided that the once Mac-only product would fare better as a PC-only product, I had developed an extensive bank of original test items. There was a long, slow, tedious process converting my old LXR items to ExamView.

ExamView seemed to be all the rage just a few years ago, when we adopting textbooks. But now ExamView is lagging behind on development for Lion.

Indeed, Mac OS X 10.7 Lion is a betrayal all its own. With it, a little internal code-gem known as Rosetta is dead. Rosetta allowed OS X software written in the early days of OS X to work on Intel-chipped Macs. By killing off Rosetta, Apple killed two of the programs central to my teaching: Canvas (also abandoned by ACDSee), and ExamView (Einstruction development status: undetermined).

And finally we have the betrayal which is the genesis of this post. Once upon a time, Apple embraced the growth of online activity. They sold a suite of online applications and services originally known as dotMac (.Mac) then renamed to MobileMe. I bought the product because its iDisk allowed me to host my website as if the directories and pages were mere folders and files on my desktop.

Years later, Apple's new toy is iCloud. In yet another of Apple's ham-fisted moves, everything MobileMe must die: MobileMe bad, iCloud good. So gone is iDisk and website hosting. Poof, as of June 30, 2012. Unlike with the end of the Mayan calendar, the end of this world is real.

I must now move my websites to a new home on the Internet. I own the domain name through 2018 via And I can make point anywhere I like. But I need server space. For now, I'm giving Rage a try. (The name nicely reflects my mood.)

Webpages, PDFs, and other documents are slowly filing (!) into the new space. I keep all the website files on my computer, so uploading everything is a simple, though time-consuming matter.

As of June 30, 2012, all my pages whose URLs include "" will go 404. If Rage pans out, the new URL detritus will be "".

The thing to remember is that and should always work. They'll redirect to new endpoints, but they should always get you there.

There's going to be much angst, confusion, wailing, and gnashing of teeth along the way. I hope it will be short-lived.

I haven't moved to Lion yet and will hold off on that as long as possible. I'll see if I can avoid use of iCloud, knowing that Apple is likely to wake up some morning and decide to shut it down. I have greater faith in DropBox at this point.

Then again, my track record for picking a long-term winner is not good. There simply aren't very many long-term winners in software to be had.


bernard said...

"But I have tons of curriculum material in Canvas X format with no viable alternative software available. As of Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion), Canvas X is dead. The pain of that harsh reality lies in the near future."

Similarly, that's why I have a six plus year old PowerBook. w/ OS 10.4

bc will keep his MacBook Pro w/ 10.6

Dean Baird said...

I'm keeping my MacBook Pro (2008) at 10.6 as well. And hope it keeps running until 2020 or so. It's a solution, but a wholly unsatisfactory and perilously fragile one.