The Angry Corrie 41: Apr-May 1999

TAC 41 Index

Definitively Maybe

TAC likes to see reader/writer or user/manufacturer dialogue where appropriate, and so Ken Crocket, one of the co-editors of the recent SMC Munros CD, has been invited to respond to last issue's reviews:

The two recent reviews of the SMC CD The Munros by Grant Hutchison and Perkin Warbeck (see TAC40, pp6-8) were intrinsically fair and conscientious pieces of work, but one or two points should perhaps be answered here. I won't go into the last four months of production, which are best described as "interesting", but I can say right away that I would have preferred twelve months in order to polish the product to suit my usual reflective nature. (Ha! See GH's letter on p18 - Ed.)

Several items on the original "wish list" were in the end not implemented. Perhaps the most useful of these is a simple list of the Munros. It was in fact requested at the last moment but the deadline for Christmas publication had been reached and it will have to wait for Version 2. We would have loved to have had more panoramas on the CD, and to have had the loan of an all-singing and pixel-tapping digital video camera. The summer was very poor, and the designated team managed one panorama only, from the Aonach Eagach. The Publications Company hope to buy their own camera and build up a collection of such panoramas, again for Version 2.

In the "videos" (ie the digitised, virtual flybys - do some purchasers believe they are real?!), I personally made the decision to name hills which to me were obviously visible in each video. You can argue, as PW did, that to name a far- off hill was being disingenuous, but I felt that this was the logical way to go. An alternative would have been to provide some sort of a title and let users work out for themselves what they were seeing summit-wise.

I agree with GH that the Log Book could be better. We hope to have this re-done next time round. I think it looks good, but some functionality has been lost en route. My original wish, for example, was that section maps could be "ticked" as Munros were climbed, so that a user could see immediately what had been done in each area.

On to what seems to be giving the most trouble both with the reviewers and I must say the production company. Some users are experiencing changes in screen resolution. The program coding is good, in other words it should run automatically, re-sizing your screen resolution to run the program, then reverting to the initial settings on exit, all without the user being aware of these changes. It certainly does on my PC, which is a now standard P200 with 64MB RAM. What I have been finding, through those users good enough to send in the Freepost envelope provided in each box, is that in some cases installation has not progressed normally. There may be no warning that this has not gone smoothly until you start running the program and things do not go as they should.

I recommend uninstalling the program and re-installing, and in most cases this seems to do the trick. The evidence points towards an under-performing piece of software written by Apple and called Quicktime, the latest version of which was included on the CD. This software is licensed to us for use on the CD, and is seemingly the industry leader in such software. But what has come out of the Microsoft "trial" on the go right now is that there is something wrong. Apple claim that the mighty Microsoft have included hidden code in their Windows operating system which interferes with the proper running of Quicktime. Microsoft in turn accuse Apple of poor quality control. As with hundreds of developers and thousands of users we seem to be caught in the middle.

This flawed installation, through no fault on the user's part, can manifest itself in many ways. In some cases the program runs more slowly than it should. Some users cannot get sound, or some sections of the program. With some users the resolution does not reset itself on exit, which is a major irritation. But an uninstall-reinstall process does seem to help, not that this is required in very many cases anyway.

GH is slightly unfair when he latches on to the video crashing, as to me this looks like a machine-specific problem. To date no-one has registered this fault with me. Again, I suspect a hidden but flawed installation, and I would like GH to try this a few times then report back.

There were two or three complaints that the maps were not detailed enough, and one user actually commented that she was expecting high resolution maps capable of allowing navigation in conjunction with her GPS. This would be nice, but is, I suggest, totally impractical. As most of us are aware, the OS does not have a reputation based on charity, so that expensive fees would have to paid for their complete data. Then the program would also require several extra CDs to store the data. We would be looking at a multi-set program costing hundreds of pounds, at least. But, just around the corner are higher density CDs, so who knows what goodies Version 2 might allow? More virtual flights for sure, more photographs for some sections perhaps.

I truly think that for a first run at an entirely new medium the SMC have produced something they can be proud of. Certainly the compliments coming back in the pre-paid envelopes vastly outnumber the disgruntled comments. And I genuinely value your comments - they confirm some of our ideas and hopes and encourage us to continue working on the holy grail that is the "Definitive CD-ROM".

There is a help page on the SMC website at www.smc.org.uk which provides some of the knowledge and tips garnered over the last few months. I provide two examples of screen shots showing that any user can grab a screen off the program (as obviously PW did for his review) and then save it and edit for their personal pleasure. Tell us what you would like to see, whether new or improved, and we'll promise to consider it.

And finally, the "old codger" visible in the panorama is not Donald Bennet. It's not me either, I've still got my complete thatch, and it's regrettably certainly not Lara Croft. Which reminds me - while Donald expressed puzzlement over the label of old codger, he didn't ask me who Lara Croft was. A secret gamer?

TAC 41 Index