What to Give, What to Give?
December 9th, 1998

Recently I have received several e-mail messages from adult sons or daughters who are trying to help their parents gain experience and expertise on the computer. These adult progeny are struggling to remember what it was like to first become computer literate. This brought to mind a family member of my own. Consider if you will an adult with a full time job, a spouse, and children still at home who are actively involved in sports and other extra curricula activities. Assume that this person is a new computer user - say between 6 months and a year into using a Mac and less time than that trying to circumnavigate the net. As my correspondents have learned, you can not simply impart your knowledge and bring them up to your level. I would compare that feeling to teaching a kid to drive a car. It would be so much easier for everyone if you could just zap the knowledge from your head to theirs. So far science has not discovered a way to do this so we have to do it the old fashioned way - trial, error, and practice.

In the case of my relative I have learned not to say dumb things like “I discovered this great new game. You should download it.” First of all this person is uncomfortable trying to download things, it never seems to go smoothly. Second, no one has ever accused this family member of being patient; and third, this person really wants to just enjoy the computer. You may know someone (perhaps yourself) who fits this profile. Let me share with you one gift I have devised for this family member. I reviewed the download sites with which I am familiar. These included www.shareware.com and www.download.com which I have previously mentioned in this column. In addition, I went to another that I have not mentioned before called http://jumbo.com. Jumbo.com has software not available on the other two sites. On the other hand, I found it to operate much slower. Jumbo.com only offers one source for a download site for each program and about half of the programs that I tried to check out could not be accessed. Utilizing these three sites I previewed several different kinds of “fun” software until I determined several that this person would really enjoy playing or using. One valuable hint: if you are doing this for an older person be sure to think of the kinds of games they would like. It can be very devastating to proudly tell your 8 year old grandson that you scored 150,000 points on some fast shoot-em-up game only to hear “thats ok Grandma - keep trying until you learn it.”

I picked out several games I wanted to give, paid what shareware fees were due, registered them to the proposed recipient, and stored them on disk to be gift wrapped and added to the pile of gifts under the Christmas tree. For what it is worth I would like to share them with you as well. All of the programs listed here will fit on a disk. Some very good options are not included in that the user will have to download them to their own computers because of the size. There may be some here that you would like to try or some that you would like to give as a gift. Note: Next weeks column will try and explain how to get and use some of the download aids so that the download process can go more smoothly for you. First however, I have to find someone who can explain it to me in plain English.

Totally Free and Fun Stuff

Print Calendar 1.1.1
This totally cool calendar program was created by Ken Worley and a new version was released November 17th as freeware. The Minimum Requirement is System 7. This program opens automatically to the current month and presents as a typical calendar page with the current date highlighted in red. You can easily go to different months. There are a number of settings available through the pull-down menus. You can direct the calendar to be created either landscape or portrait. You can tell it to save room for holes to be punched. You can create a text file with events of your own and they will be automatically added to your pages. You can change the size of the printed numbers from normal to quite large. The directions for all of these options are included and are easy to follow. The coolest thing you can do is add graphics. You can use photographs. For my test calendar I opened up ClarisWorks and used one of the selections from the ready made library. The program took the image and fit it to the page, after which I was able to reduce the saturation of the image so that it appeared very faintly behind the calendar squares. Had I wished to do so, I could have directed the program to put the image in a small portion of the calendar or at the tip. All of this is accomplished using the pull down menus. I downloaded this program from www.download.com under the category Calendars and Planners.

Card Shell Volume 1 and Card Shell Volume 2
Volume 1 was created in 1992 and updated in 1993 by Ralph S Sutherland. Volume 2 was created in 1993. They are designed to work best under system 7.0 or newer, although they will still function with some loss of smoothness under system 6.0.7. These two sets of games contain a total of 7 versions of solitaire. The games include sound effects, very good graphics and good, detailed directions for setting up or playing. I found that all I had to do was download and open them and I was ready to play. I have a commercial solitaire game on my computer and although it has somewhat better graphics I could be perfectly happy with these freeware games and I recommend them to people who like solitaire. I downloaded these two volumes from http://jumbo.com. After you get into the site go to games, then to Macintosh, then to card games.

Mac’s Cal 1.2.3
Mac’s Cal was created by Mike Sutlief and made available October 12, 1998. The Minimum Requirements is System 7. This little program simply installs a small calendar that opens up on the left side of your screen with a calendar for the current month and the current day highlighted. You can switch months and years using a pull-down menu. That's all this program does, but it is a handy tool. I found this program at www.download.com under the category Calendars and Planners.

Desktop Poker 1.0
This game was created as shareware in 1996 by Ryuhei Okita of Japan. It states clearly that it is shareware and all rights are reserved and there is a request for users to register, but no fees are noted. There are options for background color, scoreboard color and card design. The game is a version of video poker. It is easy to play, the graphics are clean and easy to read and you can anti up as well as bet on the games. A running score is maintained of the players winnings. Five cards come up on the screen and the player keeps any and all of the 5 that they want by clicking on those cards. The player then deals again and the end result of that play is your final hand. I downloaded this program from http://jumbo.com. After you get into the site go to games, then to Macintosh, then to card games.

Totally Inexpensive and Fun Stuff

Game of the Winds 2.1
This shareware program was created in 1998 by Martin Cordsmeier of Germany. Minimum requirements are for System 7. Mr. Cordsmeier has created a nifty version of Mahjongg with 20 different versions of the playboard and three different versions of the tiles. One version is composed of the alphabet which makes it a good game for children as well. The playboards vary in difficulty. The game moves fast, the graphics are very good, and there is a section that lets you keep up with the number of tiles you have left, how long it is taking you to play, and a record of the top winning scores. There is also a “find next move” option on one of the pull down menus. This whole set up is available for a shareware fee of just $10. I would consider this program to be on par with other Mahjongg games I have seen that sell for much more. I downloaded Game of the Winds from www.download.com under the category Puzzles.

Solitaire Till Dawn 3.3
This is a set of 33 versions of solitaire that I have used myself for several months. It is produced by Semicolon Software. It compares well to a commercial version of solitaire. There are sounds that can be turned off. There are different patterns for the cards. The game keeps up with several levels of statistics by name of the person playing, and there are good, easy to follow directions for each version available. There is also an undo option for those times when you decide just as you click the mouse that you wanted to make a different choice. This shareware game is only $20 and is a good value for the money. I downloaded this program from www.download.com.

These were all my personal choices. There are games of Hearts, and other kinds of games other than those mentioned, but I felt that to recommend something I had better know how to play it before I could test it. Have fun looking for things of interest to you and/or your family and friends.