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KansasFest ’97 – the A2-Web Real Time Report!

by David Kerwood

Registration Day

KansasFest 1997 started off at Avila College in Kansas City, MO (close by to the former home of the now-defunct A2-Central in Overland Park, KS). Registration of the attendees and presenters on Wednesday, 30 July, netted a grand total of 47 people, who have arrived at Avila expecting more than 3 solid days chock full of events, product demonstrations, and hopefully a few surprises :)

As per long-standing tradition, the first get-together was at KC Masterpiece, where no rib was left untouched. And “long-standing” was the operative phrase, since there was a substantial wait as the restaurant emptied out to accomodate the nearly 40 KFesters who showed up for dinner…

Day One

Thursday dawned with breakfast, which was immediately followed by the Keynote Address, given by yours truly, the A2-Web Webmaster. If you’d like to read the transcript of the speech, select this link!

Hot on the heels of that tone-setter came a stunning presentation of the first Apple IIGS web browser, Spectrum Internet Suite., done live and on-line by Geoff Weiss. Geoff’s live browsing of the Web, and demonstrations of how to use SIS to create web pages on the IIgs held the audience’s attention in this standing-room only session for nearly two hours of nonstop chatter.

After a short break for lunch came two sessions, the Publisher’s Roundtable, moderated by Stan Marks. Steve Cavanaugh (The Apple Blossom), Ryan Suenaga (editor of GenieLamp A2), Max Jones (Juiced.GS), and Joe Kohn (Shareware Solutions II). Running concurrently was Geoff Weiss (again!) having a session called “Introduction to UNIX.” That room attracted most of the programmers and programmer wanna-be’s at KFest.

Two more sessions filled out the rest of the afternoon. Chris Budewig demonstrated a glut of Apple II emulators on his two Power Macs (a 200 MHz 6400 and a 117 MHz PPC PowerBook). The hit of that demonstration was, of course, Bernie ][ The Rescue, a very fine Apple IIgs emulator for the PowerPC Mac OS machines. Auri Rahimzadeh ably performed his presentation of object-oriented programming for the Newton.

Following a quick dinner, the attendees hustled back over to the dorms for another standing-room only session, but this time the big news was the official roll out of something most never thought would be done, a real working TCP/IP for the Apple IIgs. The Thunder From Down Under, programming czar Richard Bennett started with brief discussion on the mechanics of TCP and IP internet traffic control, and then fired up his still-unnamed CDev and accompanying GS telnet application. The audience cheered and clapped when Bennett, with Geoff Weiss assisting, made a successful telnet connection to Geoff Weiss’s ISP. Richard then brought the house down when he announced that TCP/IP for the IIgs would be FREE, and would be available for downloading at a soon-to-be-announced web page!

The craziness this year was once again fueled by the Bite the Bag contest. Participants dueled out their skills of picking up a paper grocery bag with their teeth while simultaneously positioning and balancing themselves on the end of only one (1) appendage: hand or foot. This year was hotly contested to a point of a forced draw, after a debate in the finals regarding a legality.

The Bite the Bag winners for Kfest 1997 are Scott Johnson and Paul Zaleski, both seasoned champions from previous years.

And so ended another history-making KFest day!

Day Two

Friday started with a bit of a disappointment, with the Apple Computer representative (Kurt Ackman) having to bow out of his scheduled presentation on the latest Macintosh software developments from Apple. Instead, we were treated to Steve Cavanaugh’s HyperCard GS (HCGS) presentation. Steve, the publisher of Apple Blossom, has long been regarded as a HyperCard GS power user, and he did a credible job in demonstrating how the incredible power of the free HCGS could be put to use by the average IIgs owner.

Ryan Suenaga’s presentation was called “Apple II HTML”, and he attempted to explain some of the common mistakes that web page creators make that render their pages difficult, if not impossible, for any Apple II to properly display. He had the foresight to be connected to Lynx via the Genie text-based web browser on his IIgs during the presentation, and the audience could readily see the totally unusable consequences of poor web design, such as what you would find at http://www.sony.com/.

This was immediately followed by Max Jones’ well-attended demonstrations of some of the techniques he uses to publish his highly-regarded Apple II magazine, Juiced.GS. Max went to great lengths to show the audience the desktop publishing “tricks of the trade” that he has become so famous for, using his two most frequently used publishing tools, GraphicWriter III and AppleWorks GS. Max brought his beautifully maintained IIgs machine for the presentation, which includes an RGB monitor with the crispest and clearest display I have ever seen.

Lunch came and went, and the crowds assembled to watch the sparks fly as Tony Diaz from Alltech Electronics, dremel in hand, proceeded to assemble, and then completely dissassemble, a working Apple IIgs in portable case, complete with what appeared to be a flip-up gas plasma screen. This is the second portable IIgs that Tony has constructed for KFest, and Joe Kohn still doesn’t have one. Maybe next year, Joe. :)

There was an audible gasp heard from the audience when Tony also pulled out a prototype of what was originally intended to be an Apple II – Unix bridge machine. Described as “][e Times ][“, this one of a kind unit that Tony rescued from the dumpster represented just one of the many prototype hardware assemblies that Diaz has managed to scrounge up and put in his unofficial official Apple II museum.

Two items in particular made people get out of their chairs for a closer look. The genuine Apple Ethernet card for the Apple II (see the picture) was put out for display, and this mythical beast was shown to be a real piece of hardware, and not a fantasy. Then a running IIgs, sans cover, was thrown up (literally) on the workbench, and people got to see something that came very close to production – the TurboRez video card from Bill St. Pierre. It wasn’t just a static display; Tony has managed to get the thing to actually run, and it put out a beautiful display on the IIgs RGB AppleColor monitor. The sort of thing that makes you wonder what would have happened if hardware like the TurboRez video card and the Apple ethernet card would have ever made it to production.

Everyone gasped again when Tony proceeded to use the ][ e Times ][ as a workbench as the dremel started singing the hardware hacker song again…

An impromptu late afternoon session for Apple II user groups filled out the end of the day’s events, and Jerry Cline from Intrec led much of the discussion on ways that user groups could better serve the Apple II user, and to find more members. That set the stage for the last major event of the day – the KansasFest Banquet with the obligatory roast! The roastee this year was none other than Mr. TCP himself, Richard Bennett.

Richard handled all the attention with his usual down-under coolness and savoir-faire, and Tony Diaz stepped forth with videocam at the ready to record the event. The roasters included Geoff Weiss, Max Jones and Ryan Suenaga, and the proceeded were carried along at a smart pace by the emcee, last year’s roastee Joe Kohn.

Traditions were maintained, such as Tony D’s wearing a tie worthy of anything in Roger Wagner’s wardrobe. One new item was added to the fun – Richard had complained that he had never experienced the culinary delight called “Smores”; so a barbecue was set up and everyone made ‘smores’ to their heart’s content…

Friday night at KFest is always one of the longest nights, with few people ever making it to bed before sunrise. This picture was taken at nearly 3 AM from just those people who happened to be wandering around the dorm at that hour. Two images are available here – a passable .gif image, and a .jpg of a bit higher quality. Both were scanned from a fuzzy photo taken by Max Jones outside my dorm room – the banner in the background is courtesy of the Rhode Island Apple User Group, where I am a member.

Day Three

Saturday morning dawned (too early for yorfthflsvt) and the AM sessions were devoted to product demonstrations. Steve Cavanaugh was first out of the box with his tres cool quarterly disk publication, HYPER QUARTERLY. This was the first time that I had seen this (there are only so many hours in a day, after all), and Steve went a long way toward making everyone in the audience HyperCard GS fanatics. It certainly is a beautiful product, and each issue is chock full of stunning and very practical HyperCard GS stacks. Steve, along with stack wizards Hangtime and Gareth Jones, have created HyperCard GS stacks that are amazing in their versatility, ease of use, and sheer beauty. Among the stacks he demoed to the audience was a text/HTML word processing stack, called “HC Word.” This had the unique capability of being to export text with HTML tags that support basic formatting commands for viewing as web pages. Another stack demonstrated was “A La Carte,” which lets the user build menus for any HyperCard stac
k, without complex scripting. Still another HyperCard stack that was in the premier issue of Hyper Quarterly is called “PostScripter,”which allows for manipulation of any PostScript graphic, whether it be for resizing or repositioning that graphic on a page. The image would then be printed out at the highest resolution the printer would allow.

Mike Hackett then demoed an application tentatively called “GSPhotoCD” that allowed the display of PhotoCD images on a IIgs. While not quite ready for prime time (Mike was demoing GSPhotoCD for the author, who did not attend KFest), this application allowed the viewing and exporting of PhotoCD images to a variety of formats. Mike explained that while the images would (and did) display with very high quality on a Second Sight-equipped IIgs, it did not require a Second Sight card to render and display the image.

After a flurry of hardware swapping (I’ve never seen so many IIgs’s being hand-carried over so many vulnerable heads), Mike Westerfield from Byte Works proceeded to thrill the onlookers with a walk through of a nearly complete interpretive basic for the Apple IIgs, called “GSoft BASIC.” Mike’s plans include producing GSoft BASIC for Windows PCs and Mac OS machines as well, including the extensive documentation with the standard Byte Works “big fat manual.” As far as the all important “when?”, Mike explained that he hopes to have it completed by the end of the year, but would not commit to a firm date. And to cap it all off, Mike put up a GSoft Basic-developed communications program that he and Richard Bennett managed to hack together in a few hours the previous evening. No ordinary comm program, this was actually a tiny little application (fifteen lines of code) that would be used to connect to Delphi, using TCP/IP! Mike made one plea to the crowd – he doesn’t want any beta testers right now! H
e instructed the attendees to “watch the traffic online” and when he’s ready, he’ll let them know.

After taking a break for a quick lunch, Joe Kohn stepped into the breech with a brief talk about Shareware Solutions II. Actually, it wasn’t Joe the Publisher that was doing the pitch, but Joe the PR flack (who bore a stunning resemblance to Max Jones). Even if it was “preaching to the choir” (nearly all at KFest were already SSII subscribers), the final message that did ring loud and clear was for subscription renewals to SSII!

Joe then swung into his pitch for what’s available in the SSII software library (over 1200 software titles!) and then launched into new product rollout mode. The big news of the day soon became obvious – Peter Watson’s MS-DOS utilities have now been ported over to the GSOS desktop environment as a New Desk Accessory, called “MUG” (MS-DOS Utilities – Graphical interface)! $20 shareware (or $15 when using cash), this MS-DOS NDA fixes the previously “difficult” text screen interface that users had to wrestle with before. Joe announced that the new NDA will be available within a week or two.

To wrap up the product demo sessions, Joe then produced a new product from Ninja Force, a IIgs version of a popular PC game called “Bomber Man.” With a projected release date still more than a few months away, the nearly-finished arcade game, renamed “KaBoom!”, was a gorgeous blow-up-the-bad-guy game that looked great on the standard RGB monitor, as well as on the 21-inch TV that was connected to the IIgs via the composite video port.

The attendees then made their way over to the conference center for the Vendor Fair that took place during the rest of the afternoon. One could find all kinds of hardware and software for the Apple II for sale. Items ranged from the exotic and esoteric, from a “Black Apple” Bell and Howell Apple ][ (complete with its black case disk drive and paddle ports) to a couple of Mac IIsi’s, Apple IIc’s, and a IIgs or three. People pawed through hundreds of disks, drives, cards, newsletters, t-shirts, and the latest games, applications, and CD-ROMs of Apple II software.

After loading up with my haul (I bought a 340 Meg Focus internal drive from Tony Diaz at Alltech, and a few things from local boy Kevin Thornton), I went back to the dorm to take a short nap. I went out cold for about an hour, then got ready to head out to Jess & Jim’s Steak House for the traditional KFest “wrap party.” That was an experience, with me ordering a 24 oz Porterhouse steak that looked big enough to get up and walk off my plate. But I finished every bite :) Joe Kohn did not get watered down, as had been true before, though a waitress did threaten him with a full glass of water!

Then it was time to get ready to go. I was catching an early flight out out of KC, along with Ryan Suenaga and Gerry Cline from Intrec. This meant that we had to hit the road no later than 5 AM, which also meant that I would end up spending the entire night awake in the dorm. I wasn’t alone, though, as there were more than a few others who were also awake through the night. In any event, the clock eventually ran out on KFest ’97, and soon I was winging my way back to Rhode Island. Another KansasFest was now history!

One other note – KFest ’98, celebrating 10 years of KansasFest gatherings, will take place on July 22-26, 1998!! Now you know and you can start planning. The KFest committee will be giving out more details as the time gets closer, but for now, mark your calendar, tell your boss, tell your significant other, and plan on being there!