1999 Low End Mac Awards

The best and word of 1999 (and very subjective):

Best Collaborative Effort: SETI@home

Anything that can pull together over one million computer users on Windows, Mac OS, various forms of Unix, and more is pretty incredible. That’s what SETI@home has done, getting over 1.5 million computer users to donate their spare CPU cycles for analyzing sky data. So far, that’s added up to over 134,000 years of computer time.

Will we find ET? Got me, but it’s fun trying.

For more on SETI@home, see my editorial from October 19. Low End Mac actively supports Team Mac Observer, which currently stands at 20th place in the overall team stats.

Mac-Centric Site Rebranding: The Mac Observer

Just a year ago, Webintosh made the announcement: The almost two-year old site, a staple for many of us, was changing its name. It took some getting used to, but The Mac Observer very successfully rebranded itself as a leading Mac news and opinion site. A personal favorite is “The Mac Observer Spin” which helps bring a concluding focus to articles.

On top of that, they pulled together a Top 20 team in SETI@home.

Honorable Mention

Macintosh4ever reinvented itself as MacBC, the Macintosh Broadcasting Company, creating a site with a broader focus.

Mac-Centric Site Loss: MacTimes

A year ago, MacTimes was home to Pure Mac, Low End Mac, Bare Feats, State of the Macintosh, and a few other sites. It also had an excellent news engine.

Then it fell apart. First one site left, then another. Eventually Low End Mac, the last remaining core site, left for its own domain. MacTimes struggled along for several more months but never recovered.

In the end, the owners tried to sell the domain on eBay, but found no takers. As former editor-in-chief for MacTimes, I’ve penned additional thoughts and details in The Life and Death of MacTimes.

The good news is that, with one exception, everyone who left seems to have landed on his feet.

Runners Up

Lots of sites are missing in action, updated irregularly if at all. Among those missed are:

  • MacGeeks, with a name you have to love, hasn’t been updated since Thanksgiving Day (11/25/99).
  • The Mac Junkie, no updates since November 19. Got off to a good start, developed some good writers.
  • MacinStart, which replaced MacMania. Promised weekly updated Nov. 16, but has only been updated once since then.
  • State of the Macintosh, commentary by Somnath Banerjee. Part of MacTimes. Always though provoking.

Beyond that, several iMac subsites have merged back into their parent site, such as deal-iMac being absorbed into dealmac as what was once unique about the iMac slowly became the Macintosh norm (USB, lack of a floppy drive, etc.).

Low End Hostile Site Design: Byte.com

I’m a tech weenie from way back. I’ve been reading Byte since 1979. But in November, they made their site inaccessible to anyone using a browser that doesn’t support PNG images. Well, not completely inaccessible, but pretty close. All new graphics are PNGs, so for new articles with graphical links but no text links, there’s no way to know what’s new or what the article is about.

Byte website, late 1999

Late 1999 BYTE website courtesy of archive.org and a modern browser.

I’ve got nothing against PNGs, except that Internet Explorer for the Mac doesn’t support them at all, nor do older versions of Netscape, which means using PNGs is low-end-hostile.

Other than that, Byte.com is an excellent site that covers a lot more than the world of Windows.

Best Derived Design: iMac Linux

I pride myself in trying to create a site with a distinct look, one that’s easy to navigate and friendly to older Macs as well as those who use text or speech browsers. But sometimes imitation isn’t just the sincerest form of flattery – it’s a great way to design a site.

Anyone familiar with Slashdot will feel immediately comfortable at iMac Linux. In fact, they’ll have a real sense of deja vu.

The iMac Linux site is deliberately designed to emulate Slashdot, which is great for Linux users. The color scheme and icons are different, but if not for that, you’d suspect you were on Slashdot. And that’s the point, to make it comfortable.

Visual Downgrade: MacCentral

MacCentral, which is now teamed up with Macworld and MacWeek, has always had an authoritative, news-like look. Well, they did until mid-December, when they replaced this header:

with this lightweight logo:

Now, which one looks more like a respected news site?

MacCentral remains a good source of news, although they now mix MacWeek and Macworld links in with their own. (MacWeek does the same when linking to MacCentral – it’s like they’re hardly separate sites in some ways.)

Paradigm Shift: Ezines

Low End Mac was named after a defunct ezine, Low End User. In the age of the Web, the old style ezine designed to be downloaded and printed or read in Acrobat or DOCmaker is fighting a losing battle. We want our information on the web.

Some ezines have successfully made the transition, while other remain in the old mode, and still others have vanished. The current roster (apologies if I left anyone out):

  • .Mac (dotMac) has merged with 1984 Online, which is a regular website with DOCmaker and Acrobat back issues.
  • ATPM (About This Particular Macintosh) is available for download – or 100% online for reading with your browser.
  • Apple Wizards is 100% online.
  • MacNow seems to be on hiatus.
  • The Menagerie of Macs moved from an email ezine to 100% online (hosted on Low End Mac), but it hasn’t published an issue recently.
  • MyMac Online is 100% online and available for download.
  • Web Page Design for Designers isn’t Mac specific, but it’s always been 100% online (which makes sense, considering its focus).

Overall, the trend has been away from something you have to download before reading to content you can view on the Web – although several sites give you both options. I think it’s a big step forward putting ezines on the Web where the content is readily available, and I applaud the paradigm shift of the past year which has brought this about.

Relocation Award: Low End Mac

I could be wrong, but I think Low End Mac has relocated more times than any other Mac-centric site. We started out the year as part of MacTimes (our URL began http://www.mactimes.com/lowend/), then moved to our own domain (http://lowendmac.com/) on a G3 run by Innovative Technologies. After several months of trying to move the domain, we finally set up as (http://lowendmac.net) and joined the infiniMedia Network, which is hosted on Unix gear by Pair Networks. Three hosts and three URLs in one year. Believe me, it’s more than enough.