MCE Macintosh Computer Expo 2004

See the MCE 2004 6 meg Quicktime movie

Can you imagine a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon?

Setting up

"Is someone monitoring the door?" called out Lorene Romero, NCMUG (North Coast Macintosh User's Group) president and energetic chair of the Mac Computer Expo (MCE) committee. Billy Nickerson, volunteer coordinator responded quickly, assuring her that all was well. It was shortly after 8 o'clock this Saturday morning at the cafeteria of Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC). By this time, about 15 volunteers had already been on duty for almost an hour.

The rented tables had arrived and were unloaded by a cadre of hardy gentlemen, led by Alan Kantor, keeper of the 'table map'. Tablecloths were immediately being draped and clipped on by a half-dozen people with the rhythm of a well-oiled machine. After all, this is a well-oiled machine. Savvy negotiating by Barbara Brown finally landed a company that consistently delivered and picked up on-time and with everything that was ordered (at a reasonable price).


A few volunteers made the transition this year to be a part of the MCE Committee. The commitee, composed of over a dozen members, typically starts planning the event as early as April, and meets monthly until the event in September. MCE is the annual fundraising event for NCMUG. It is also an important time for the club to connect with the community and the local community college. SRJC co-sponsors the event with NCMUG, providing the excellent venue.

Nate Freidman worked his magic on the wireless set-up and Linda Chatham moved into a seat at the raffle table, where she spent most of the day. Vendors who had arrived early were a bit disappointed that they could not get in right away and start set-up, but Lorene assured them that as soon as the tablecloths were up, they would be welcomed in.

I know MCE is here somewhere...

The doors open

It was worth the wait. The crowds were moderate, but consistent throughout the day. Advertising work by Teddie Pierce paid off. Kasey Galang, representing Macworld Magazine, was ready to take subscriptions, especially for to their new digital music magazine, Playlist. NCMUG member Rodney Jonk was the first to renew his membership, taking advantage of a show special. Newcomer, Scott Meinzen, of Total Training, heard about the event from a friend. He was looking forward to showcasing his company's close association with Adobe systems and demo their training tools. Further down the aisle, another software vendor, Runaway Training, stood ready to meet the expo crowd. Lee "Rod" Roderick and Steve Miller, from Las Vegas were doing their first show ever. Rod smiled and spoke confidently, "We can't fail." Faculty members, Barbara Heiman and Johanna James had barely erected their informational signs when they began to answer questions about upcoming computer courses at SRJC.

Circus Ponies
Circus Ponies is cooking up something new

About 28 vendors filled the cafeteria with a wide range of products and services. There was software, hardware, books, magazines, services, community college course information, and, of course, NCMUG tables to register new members and renew existing memberships. Membership secretary Joan O'Brien was proud to report the final figures. Over twenty people became new members and 35 renewals. NCMUG vice-president Michael Sauer pitched in with Joan to take memberships. The NCMUG raffle table was busy most of the day. A handful of lucky folks won book packages from O'Reilly books, copies of MS Office 2004, 4th generation iPods (yes, iPods!), and, last but not least, an iBook!

membership table
Membership Secretary, Joan O'Brien was busy all day

The crowd

This year's crowd was heavy with Baby Boomers and those I'll call Boomer-plus. There were many young boys (and a couple of girls) checking things out with their father, mother or grandparent in tow. John Howes and his young son Nick are regulars to the event, driving the approximately one hour from San Francisco. Not many teenagers attended.

Kickoff speaker

Author, iLife guru and Garage Band afficianado Jim Heid, led off the day's speakers with a trip down Mac memory lane and a peek at his crystal ball. In a lively Keynote-powered presentation, Heid played clips from Steve Job's first MacWorld keynote speech where he quoted Bob Dylan "times they are a'changin". Since the introduction of the Macintosh, according to Heid, storage devices have become smaller and much cheaper, memory has gone down in price, displays are bigger and cheaper, and audio capabilities have improved exponentially. Jim believes that "You might say that personal computers have finally become powerful enough to become truly personal." If he is correct, we may see the following trends emerge: 1. Still and video cameras will merge (with phones not far behind). 2. Digital wallets will proliferate (iPods will go beyond music) 3. Wireless will be everywhere.

Twelve-year old Connor sat in the audience with his grandmother. Heid remarked that Connor was fortunate that he didn't have to go through all of the ëearly' days, of the personal computer. Learning of Connor's age, he remarked, "I have software older than you are, that I still use!"

Using himself as an example of what's to come, Heid explained how he will bring two storage devices on his next vacation, leaving his Powerbook behind. He'll use a Belkin adapter for his iPod to download digital images from his camera. He'll also back-up to a second device, a Smartdisk reading device that runs Linux. It has a color screen so you can view your images, or even play them back through a TV.

NCMUG member Dick Dennis was impressed with the presentation. Dick said that this was one presentation that "kept you awake". As an avid amateur videographer, he looks forward to solutions that make the process of converting his video to DVD just a bit faster.

G5 iMac
That's right, one of the first public showings of the G5 iMac

The keynote

Macworld magazine editor Jason Snell gave the audience his take on the Mac, past, present, and future, including vintage Macworld magazine covers in his review. Mac present was embodied in his showing of the new G5 iMac. The device demonstrates Apple's continued focus on eye-catching design that partners with function.

Snell's crystal ball shows the next version of the Mac operating system, Tiger. Snell proposed that Apple is letting the need for improvements, not the calendar, drive the next upgrade, so it may not be ready until mid-2005.

How about a Powerbook G5? Snell says this product is hot, that temperature folks. This is a big design challenge. Lastly, home entertainment could be merging with a Apple computers. Snell pointed out that the G5 iMac can be used as a TV screen. With its ability to be removed from the elegant stand it is perfectly balanced upon, perhaps we'll be seeing more of these machines in our living rooms and board rooms.

More workshops

As the day progressed, it was easy to spot computer users looking for the student lounge or the faculty lounge in order to catch one of the 45 minute presentations. Signs were everywhere and only a few people needed hands-on assistance. Concurrent sessions followed the keynote, so it was necessary to choose between such options as OS X maintenance (Ronnie Roche), Photoshop CS (Mike Descher), MS Office 2004 (Vitaliy Kuznetsov), Macworld magazine's latest (Jason Snell), and the world of OS X wireless (Tom Negrino and Dori Smith). NCMUG webmaster Stephen Henry organized a cool jam session on Garage Band that ran through the afternoon.

GarageBand Jam
Play the GarageBand Jam Tune - 5meg mp3 file

The session showcased musicians Jonathan Seff from Macworld Magazine with NCMUG members, Chip Dunbar and Donald Pasewark, adding their own instruments into a computer jam, led by Heid and projected on the screen. The full song was played and enjoyed by everyone as an iTunes piece at the end of the session.

Back on the show floor, I spoke with Enrique Quintero. He and Doug Cox had driven from Fresno that morning to set up his small display for his design company, selling food and drink recipes to keep handy on your iPod. With a cooler of ice tea and a supply of cups, Enrique chatted through the afternoon with colleagues, customers, and potential customers.


John Hershey, new to the NCMUG board and MCE committee, was everywhere with his digital camera. Kathy Aanestad, another MCE committee member, was not far behind with her digital video camcorder, recording bits of the event to prepare a music video overview. With her mini-DV cam secured to a monopod, Maria Arguello, Maria Arguello, is the Regional Liaison for On-Line groups and the President of Main Line MUG of PA, also covered the event from beginning to end.

Herbal upgrade

This year the Herb Festival was a bit further away from MCE, due to construction on campus. That didn't inhibit the mix of sage and software. The Mac faithful made the trek through lavender, candles, massage, and incense to sample the vegetarian fare. A handful of herbalists were seen at the expo, but not as many as in past years.

Vitaliy Kuznetsov
Vitaliy Kuznetsov from Microsoft

The business

Several attendees were seen carrying home Wacom Technologies' new Intous 3 graphics tablets. Education software vendor, Creation Engine was responsible for several of those sales. Mike Hogan from MacChug, a Chico Mac User group, was proud of his new tablet. It was worth the multi-hour drive. His only regret was that he didn't know about the Herb Festival. "My wife would have loved it.", he said.

Plastic bags with purchases from Peachpit Press, and O'Reilly books were noticeable. MacHome and Macworld magazines, along with sampler CD's made the rounds.

The clean-up

Set-up and clean-up at this event always amazes me. As the clock headed close to 3:30, vendors started breaking down their booths and volunteers whirled, once again, into action. Although there are never as many volunteers at the end of the day, as at the beginning, it went pretty well. Even this reporter was drawn away from pen and paper, heading out to pick up informational signs that had been placed nearby. Within 45 minutes, the tables were cleared, struck and stacked, ready for pick-up. The floor was being swept and everything was put back in its original order.

Billy Nickerson handed off the last piece of SRJC equipment to be secured. "That's the last item." He said with relief. "We're five short on the A-frames" Rick shouted out. They were soon found, just out of sight toward busy Mendocino Avenue. John Nouveaux was carrying a banner and frame back to the venue, looking forward to the day's end. Ronnie Roche gathered trash and dumped the leftover doughnuts in the bin. (Leftover doughnuts? This is a busy group.)

Full hall
From this ...
Empty hall
to this in 45 minutes!

As I headed out, I spotted Lorene Romero and Leigh Cockrell (designer of this year's MCE poster) making the trek to gather up the banners. "Can you go down the block and get the last two?" asked Lorene, in her ëjust one little favor' voice. I headed down the street. The last sign stake had been pounded into the ground with the exuberance of a volunteer who forgot that it would need to be removed at the end of the day. Even a well- meaning passerby was unable to extract it for me. I eventually persuaded it out with a rock hammer. (Doesn't everyone keep one handy?)

I was sweating profusely from my workout, but it gave me a chance to think about how events like MCE happen, and after a few times through, actually become, dare I say it, routine.

During the Garage Band jam session, Jim Heid was trying to name his music clip and couldn't quite land in the right place. Jonathan Seff, lending guitar support to the jam told him, "Just keep clicking." "Just keep clicking", Jim replied, "I think that will be the name of my next book." The crowd laughed and Jim finally clicked in the right spot.

There are several keys to NCMUG's success in making this event "Just keep clicking".

  •  A strong networker at the helm. One who is not shy about asking for favors.
  •  Clear goals
  •  A dedicated long-range planning team
  •  A troup of event-day volunteers, ready to do their shift, then enjoy the event.
  •  Celebration of a job well done.

Well done NCMUG.

Article by Veda Lewis