Show Support for local software

by Alan Zisman (c) 1998. First published in Vancouver Computes, December 1998

It?s a jungle out there? and for the software industry, the jungle is stuck in the Jurassic era. And like that long ago time, the jungle is full of big, meat-eating predators.

If you?re a software company here in BC, you?ve got to evolve a strategy like our long-ago mammal ancestors. If you?re small, you?ve got to be quick and nimble if you don?t want to get eaten or inadvertently stepped on. Find an ecological niche and become best of your class.

While lacking the T-Rex-like companies of neighboring Washington State or California?s Silicon Valley, BC has quite a vibrant software industry. But you wouldn?t know it walking down the aisles of your local software retailer.  Most BC-made products aren?t going into the consumer market?like Seagate Software?s award-winning, made-in-BC Crystal Reports, they?re aimed at highly-focussed market segments?for Crystal Reports, corporate database reporting, for example.

But there are local products aimed at you and I. Here are a few that are worth a look:

  • Slides and Sound Plus from InMedia. With the explosion of digital images as digital camera and scanner prices drop, Slides and Sound Plus makes it fun and easy to create slide shows. Aimed at home and small business users, it features an intuitive interface that builds a multimedia presentation combining pictures, video clips, text, and sounds. A huge number of fancy transitions and special effects are included, along with a collection of royalty-free music.

Many camera models bundle software that will play simple slide-shows, often with transistions as well. Slides and Sound Plus goes an important step further?it can create shows that can be run on computers lacking the program, so they can be sent as e-mail attachments, or even on a floppy disk. The company offers to broadcast user slide-shows on their iMtv website. It?s available for Mac and Windows PC for $49.95 (US)?about $65 CDN, and a time-limited version is available free on the Internet, at

  • WebPainter from wonderfully-named Totally Hip Software is perhaps the premier web animation tool. Animation is more complex than simply linking together a series of digital photos, but like Slides and Sound, Web Painter includes a collection of transitions and special effects. Both paint-style bitmap images and  draw-style vector images can be used, with separate tools for each?like traditional animators, cel layers are employed to create the illusion of movement against a static background.

The end-result is a GIF animation, typically used to spice up a web page. 1,000 royalty-free animations are included. Look for the newly-updated version 3, for about $120(CDN). Again, Mac and Windows versions are available, along with downloadable trial versions and a shareware light version from

  • PeakJet started life on the Lower Mainland, but the company, PeakSoft picked up and moved just south of the 48th parallel to Bellingham.

The product is a Web-accelerator, software that replaces the caching that?s part of Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer with a far smarter version. The result is a browser that looks ahead, downloading links while you?re reading a page, so if you click on one of those links (as you?re likely to do), it?s already on your system ready to appear.

As well, the program?s smarts learn from your browsing?it?s more likely to pre-fetch links that you?ve visited previously. Your modem doesn?t run any faster, but by working in the background before you ask it to, it seems dramatically more effective?even on high-speed cable and ADSL connections.

New version Peak 2000 is just out, written for Windows systems. Programmed in Java, it may be useable on other systems as well. $29.95 (US)?about $45 CDN.

  • PowerPrint is just for Mac-users?Mac-users trapped in a world full of PC printers that are otherwise tempting but unavailable.
Burnaby-based Infowave Imaging  ships it with a special cable, and a CD full of drivers?supporting over 1400 PC printer models. The company is also offering a new model designed for Apple?s popular but hard-to-print from iMac. It combines the huge number of printer drivers with a USB to PC parallel port adapter cable. Either version is about $100 (US) or whatever the equivalent in ever-changing Canadian dollars.

More information from

Good products, all. And produced locally (even Bellingham-based PeakSoft admits that most of its employees stayed behind in BC). And that means that if you buy a copy, your money stays here, helping to provide jobs for your neighbors.

And if, as in dinosaur-days, the huge predators die off, perhaps these local equivalents of the agile mammals will be in the right place to take over the world.

Search WWW Search

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan