1998 has been a remarkable year for Apple Computer, Inc. All but given up on by both Wall Street and Main Street, the company has come roaring back with more than $300M in profits, a hot stock, and compelling products. All of which have conspired to make 1998 a year to remember.
As this remarkable year comes to a close, it's time to pick Crabb's Top Ten Mac OS-related products for the year.
10. Symantec Norton Utilities 4.x OK, it was late coming to the market, which was annoying and harmful to Macfolk trying to deal with HFS+, but now that it has arrived, millions of Mac folk can keep their hard drives safely in tune. Although there are other good system-reliability utilities in the world (MicroMat's TechTool Pro comes immediately to mind), the Norton Utilities remain the gold standard of general "Mac wellness" packages.
9. VST/Iomega PowerBook Zip Drive The VST people have always known more about the peripheral doodads that we want for our PowerBooks than does Apple. Their PowerBook Zip Drive, which can be purchased to fit virtually any PowerBook with an expansion bay (going back to those lame PowerBook 5300's for example), is an essential tool for the road warrior. If you own a new PowerBook G3 and don't own one of these drives, buy it now. You'll need it.
8. Any game by MacSoft or Ambrosia Software Unlike other gamers who shied away from Apple in 1998, the MacSoft and Ambrosia people pumped out hot game after hot game, like Duke Nukem 3D (MacSoft), Unreal (MacSoft), Apeiron (Ambrosia Software), Barrack(Ambrosia Software), Harry the Handsome Executive, (Ambrosia Software), Mars Rising, (Ambrosia Software), Master Of Orion II: Battle at Antares (MacSoft), and Swoop (Ambrosia Software). Maybe some other PC gamers will get with the Mac program now.
7. Iomega USB Zip Drive With no built-in removable disk drive, the iMac could have been headed for backup hell. But Iomega and iMation (see below) fixed all that. Zip drives are ubiquitous nowadays, so having one for the iMac helps insure the platform's compatibility with the rest of the world.
6. iMation USB SuperDisk Just as with the Iomega USB Zip Drive (see above), iMation brought removable media to the iMac. The SuperDisk drive's big win (besides its 120MB SuperDisk media) is that it reads and writes regular floppies. Plus, its case matches the iMac's! Duh!!!
5. Alsoft's DiskWarrior According to Alsoft, "DiskWarrior is the only utility on the market that rebuilds a new replacement directory from the original directory." They are correct. Unlike TechTool, Disk First Aid, or Norton, DiskWarrior does not use the "patching" method of fixing directories, one broken B-tree at a time. That's why these utilities will often give up on very badly damaged hard drives. DiskWarrior looks at the entire disk directory before proceeding, so it can fix really mangled hard drives without losing data.
4. Casady & Greene's Conflict Catcher 8.X If you want to keep your Mac clean and tidy so you don't need to fix the hard disk, then you'll want a copy of Conflict Catcher 8.X. It manages your startup resources much better than the Extensions Manager and it will find and fix startup conflicts like a digital genie. A must have for any Mac fan.
3. QuickTime 3.0 Despite Microsoft's best efforts to kill it (including some pretty nasty behind-the-scenes arm twisting), QuickTime 3.0 has become the multimedia format and encoding standard. Why? Because it works cross-platform, is efficient, and does the job painlessly. And it offers a slew of media effects.
2. Mac OS 8.5.1 If you don't have this latest upgrade to the Mac OS, you are blowing it. If your Mac will run it, you should buy it. It fixes a jillion little problems with OS 8.0, 8.1, and 8.5, and it sports all the interface improvements of 8.5. On top of this, you'll get the Sherlock search engine which lets you search any disk AND the Internet like a charm.
1. iMac The year's most stylish and coolest computer is also its best buy. Who would have thought Apple -- "the high priced spread" -- could build such a thing? Apparently, Steve Jobs did. At a list price of $1,299 (often discounted), the iMac is the best buy for any computer newbie, because it is bleedingly easy to setup and use. Take it out of the box. Plug it into a phone jack and a power outlet. Turn it on. Have fun.
Then call your friends who just bought a new PC and ask them how it's going with their setup. Be polite and don't laugh when they tell you...