Friday, December 13, 1996
hen I've complained about software problems — mostly about my pre-Windows95, Windows v3.11111111111 O/S that's now gone — I have (almost) always mentioned several good pieces of software that I really like: PointCast News and InterNet Stock Tracker.
The other really fine piece of software that I just found is Power Desk v2.01, probably the finest addition to Windows 95 any user can make. It was named the SIC/SIA 1996 Product of The Year and is a very impressive piece of utility software. In the short time I've had Windows95 I've tried a bunch of add-in software. And usually un-installed each. I believe this is among the premiere software packages introduced to the Web in 1996, by The Mijenix Corporation.
After you've finished here, go visit their site and read about the sophisticated and inexpensive software they have. I've purchased PowerDesk v2.01 and it's so slick as ExplorerPlus! that I get tasks done quickly, and can launch all 39 of my applications from the program's launchbar. The icon docking architecture is excellent, if you choose to use it. There is also a Size Manager that finds junk files on your HD and allows you to erase them. And several more indispensable features. All the information is at their site. I put everything on the PowerDesk Launchbar and it's a very tidy operation with everything in one place. I keep the desktop clean and run everything from PowerDesk. Very cool. If Microsoft had any brains at all, they'd buy this company and keep them developing slick software that would make as PC perform more like the venerable Macs used to. But they don't, so you'll just have to go to their website and get PowerDesk. Tell them I sent you.
All these programs run under Windows and make life a whole lot easier in getting things done. The new "information push" technology for PointCast, Stock Tracker and other news services will be out soon, and door-to-door delivery will be constant and consistent. Isn't life on the internet just one big beta-test program? I like being a ginneau pig.
Another piece of software that's both ultra-powerful and totally HTML-less, is the finely-integrated NetObjects Fusion. I visited their site months ago when they premiered a 17meg beta version. It was just too much of a mega-download for a buggy, test pack that would crash periodically anyway, so I declined the opportunity.
The final release version is so slick that building a website is greatly simplified. There is no HTML or coding or anything to deal with. Many features of Adobe's PhotoShop and a dozen other programs are all rolled into one slick package. This is like heaven; no hassles except choices and click. Bang zoom, it's done and very nice. It retails for $899.00 and is probably worth it.
But the only reason I want it is for the Site Structure Editor. That feature, just one of many that Fusion has, is the one that will be mandatory on commercial and some personal Websites of the future, as the quality ones become more and more vast. Visitors will want a menu of sub-site choices and the quick way to get there. Ease of navigation prevails.
But wait! My friend, Dr. Web at Jeffrey Zeldman Presents says, "It's web suicide" to mess around with an HTML-less editor. And I believe Dr. Web. After you've finished here, go read Jeffrey's observations and recommendations on HTML and HTML-less text editors for use on the Web. His insight will amaze you. See for yourself what he has to say on that and a hundred other topics on the fine science of Webbery. Take a sandwich and your favorite beverage, and make a day of it. I have on several occasions.
In seven years of operation — and from since 1982 when I got my first IBM PS2/50 'puter with a 40 meg HD — I've done thousands of landscape and other estimates, all of it using Microsoft software systems: Word v7.0, Works v3.0, Excel v6.0, Publisher v2.0, DOS to Windows v3.11 to Windows95.
I do the spreadsheet estimates — complex but amazingly beautiful tools that I wrote in 1990 because none existed for commercial use — in MSWorks and Excel and store them on 3.5" diskettes for use in billing and monthly business management meetings. They're also useful in future years for recalling exactly what was done on a customer's property. There's also a hard-copy file with a site plan and all relevant paperwork. We're very organized here.
Lately, three Maxell diskettes have crashed. A total of 129 landscape estimates gone. I've used Norton Utilities to try to rebuild the root directory, the FAT tables and revive the diskette. All for naught. All data lost.
To say I was pissed off would be an understatement; hundreds of hours spent in creating the estimates on the diskettes are now wasted. I sent Maxell Corporation a note asking them how to recover data lost on the lousy diskettes. I recommend that you don't buy any of their products until they get their problems fixed. You don't want to have to go through what I'm going through now in trying to reconstruct the data.
To get around using a 3.5" diskette anymore, I've switched to Iomega Zip Drives with 100megs of storage space. They've been around since last eyar, but I just found them as an alternative. All landscape estimates now reside on the Zip Drive Cartidge, safe and sound. Where the hell were these things a year ago when I was starting to have all this trouble with 3.5" Maxell diskettes?
Joseph Campbell Website.
It is indeed a rarity that I would recommend joining a foundation without first checking its credentials very, very thoroughly, but here's one I joined without reservation: The Joseph Campbell Foundation. In case you've never heard of him, the late Dr. Campbell influenced millions of people all over the world with his tales and explanations of mythology, literature and the arts.
He taught philosophy at Marymount College in Tarrytown, NY for 35 years, gave lectures all over the world, was a brilliant scholar and — most importantly — was the most astute interpreter of religious philosophy of this century. He understood the message that the ancients left us in the lore and mythology of religion. His most amazing feat was to condense all the religions' basis into a simple storyline. And every religion has that exact same storyline. Same characters too. PBS did a 7-hour special that I also taped and still watch when I'm full of unanswerable questions. That series — The Power of Mythology — helps me put it all back into prespective. I recorded it on my Sony Super-Beta 900 — which runs flawlessly and is far superior to my Sony VHS X700 — so you'll need one also if you want to borrow the excellent tapes from the 1986 series. Just email me and I'll lend them to you.
I attended his lecture on the Man With A Thousand Faces in New York City in 1988, and became transfixed on the "logic of mythology" — a true oxymoron — but precisely correct, nonetheless. After the lecture, when all the media and book-signing groupies had left, I had tea with Joe Campbell at a local ginmill. The owners had to look far and wide for two teabags, but eventually found some and brewed two half-decent cups. I was amazed by what he knew, and astounded at what he knew he didn't. So many questions cleared up by the simple and accurate interpretation of mythology that Campbell could impart. Quite a scholar's scholar.
You've heard of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones Adventures? Well, Joe Campbell influenced their creation and production through George Lucas of Lucasfilm, in Marin County, CA. (That's where my sister, Becky lives, and where I'll be going in January.) And that's where the 7-hour PBS Series was filmed: at Skywalker Ranch, George Lucas' mega-million dollar ranch and production facility. Joe Campbell gave his greatest public performance during that time. And he died from heart failure a short month later.
We're just about finished with all the landscaping projects for 1996; there's a long list of 'things' that need to be done — many of which are underway already — at the Garden Center.
A new underground drainage system addition needs to be added to the existing network. The crew has already laid most of the piping and our backhoe made short work of that project. Hundreds of shrubs and trees have to be dug and root-pruned and replanted for Spring sales. Several large trees that I brought-in over six years ago with an 80" tree spade were moved to a newly-designed planting-sitting area. The pond that we made two years ago overfloweth with fish and frogs, so we've netted as many as we could and stored them in holding tanks, and will begin enlarging the pond and constructing an adjacent planted display garden, also newly-designed for our customers' continuing education in 1997.
The net-net of all these changes will be an enlargement of nursery stock display areas, greater concentration of trees in one area, addiitonal sitting and small-scale display gardens within and on the edge of the main display areas and the third in a planned period of physical site adjustments. People like to see change that's good. Awkward changes make people nervous; they mentally tanslate what they perceive as a problem into being their problem. It's important to translate a positive experience — with every single detail handled — to their mind. My landscape crews do that easily. The results are awesome; the compliments from customers are effusive.
Customers will get unusual planting ideas, combinations, configurations and techniques from these new groupings. I'll feature some of the more unusual material outside of my Collector's Nursery that accomplishes out-of-character tasks. In addition to the displays that solve their problems, we'll construct some that challenge traditional useage
I'll get some pictures up as the work progresses to a recognizable point, and some final shots of the finale before Spring. I'm excited; stay tuned. You might find some applications that would work in a difficult spot at your home.
Live Christmas Trees.
This year, don't buy cut, dead Christmas Trees. It's a crime against Nature to cut a Living Tree in the prime of its life and use it for a lousy two week period, and then discard it into a dump or landfill.
Wait. I'm no tree hugger. But I'm very critical of cultivated nursery stock. I have more trees and shrubs removed to make way for quality plant material than anyone in the region, maybe the US. I hate junk in landscapes. It's so unnecessary. "When in doubt, take it out."
Rather than buy a cut tree this or any future year, buy a Living Christmas Tree. Read my ad, called Live Trees vs Dead Trees that's running now and causing another huge drop in the cut, dead tree sales, plus another record year with Living Trees. Our sales here reflect that again.
This was not only a record year for all sales areas for us for the sixth year running, but Live Christmas Tree sales are up 40% over last year. That means even more people are thinking twice about not buying a dead tree and sensibly buying a Living Tree. Another gold star for the good guys.
Over the past few years that I've run this ad, it's caused a 30% yearly drop in cut, dead tree sales here in the York area. And a corresponding rise in sales of Living Trees. But now, the vendors that sell cut, dead trees are also selling Living Trees — but with way too small 12" rootballs that will not allow the tree to live after being replanted — in response to public pressure for Living Trees. Cool.
The earth is slowly dying because of these vendors — added to a whole host of other problems — and their wholesale Killing of oxygen-replenishing trees. Boycott the streetcorner sellers: buy a Living Christmas Tree and replant it after the Holiday.
Send me some mail and I'll send you complete instructions on how to make sure the Live Tree you purchase from a reputable source stays Living for many, many years afterward.
David Siegel, HTML Terrorist and Web design proponent, asked me to write a piece for his weekly Journal about Live Trees vs Dead, Cut Christmas Trees. I was very glad to do my part in trying to keep the dead tree merchants from raping the earth again this year and in coming years. It appeared yesterday, After you've finished here, please read it and drop Dave a note telling him if you agree or not. And send me a note too if you concur. If you don't, send me one too.
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