Business in Vancouver: News that works for you

    If you want it, here it is, come and get it, but you'd better hurry 'cos it's going fast

    by Alan Zisman (c) 1996 First published in Business in Vancouver ,  Issue # 345 June 4, 1996  High Tech Office  column

    This week, a mix of announcements--events and some quirky things that you may even find more important.

    Take databases--for a long time, databases were either pretty wimpy, good for little more than organizing your CD collection, or else they required a full-time programmer. A couple of products recently have broken the mould, offering 90 per cent of the power for 10 per cent of the effort, even by mere (non-programmer) mortals.

    One of the nicest, Claris FileMaker Pro, is also the only product in that category that has equivalent Mac and Windows versions, and produces data files that can be used on either platform. Claris has just announced a contest for the best "real-world solutions" produced with its software. It's offering $60,000 in prizes, including flights for two around the world, and you don't even need to own a copy of FileMaker Pro--you can download a working-trial copy. Check for information, but you only have until June 7 to post your solution to Claris on the 'Net.

    * * *

    Jump on it... I get a lot of press releases and mailings about conferences, many of them too expensive or too esoteric to appeal to many readers. Power Up Electronic Highway Exposition may be different. Running from June 7 to 9 at the Robson Square Conference Centre, it offers a variety of seminars and an exhibit hall featuring local companies and government along with the big guys--IBM, Microsoft, Netscape, etc. $8.50 at the door (less if pre-booked) gets you into the exhibit hall, and to about a third of the seminars.

    The Power Up conference is co-sponsored by local computer periodicals Computer Player and Canadian Computer Wholesaler, for whom, by some coincidence, I also write. That notwithstanding, I think it offers one of the more interesting lists of events I've seen this year (and hey, BIV is sponsoring a seminar on "Culture, Commerce and the Future of Canadian Media," so it's all one big, happy family).

    Some of the noteworthy seminar tracks, however, are only available at an additional charge--$125 ($99 in advance) for "Surfing the Internet With the Dragon," which is a series on getting to know the Chinese market, or for a series on "Freedom of Information and Privacy." There's a full-day session on ISO 9000, and a two-day series called the "Policy Conference," which aims to bring together "leaders from government, industry, research, education, and public interest sectors" trying to create a common vision for B.C.'s future on the Electronic Highway. All in all, it looks quite a bit more interesting than many such events. Tickets from Community Box Office (280-2801), information hotline 732-4752,

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    Multimedia meal... While the Power Up conference will talk about the growth of the 'Net in our business and home lives, Takeout Taxi is actually trying to bring the 'Net into our daily lives--where we eat. Expanding on its current phone-based service, it's now on the Web, at Log on, take a moment to register, and you can view the menus of a wide range of restaurants, divided by neighbourhood and genre. You can place an order for virtually everything on the standard menu. Despite the name, the food isn't delivered by cab: Takeout Taxi uses its own delivery fleet to bring the food from the restaurant to your address for a $3.95 delivery fee.

    A year or two ago, it was considered newsworthy when a San Jose Pizza Hut accepted orders over the 'Net: now Takeout Taxi gives 'Net users in Vancouver, Richmond and south Burnaby a much wider range of eating options. (A warning to Web surfers: if your Web account is using your phone line, log off after placing your food order so that Takeout Taxi can phone back to confirm your order.)

    Finally, when your Web-ordered dinner arrives, maybe you want to turn on the TV. On Tuesday, June 4th, at 8 p.m., you may want to channel-surf (rather than 'Net-surf) over to Knowledge Network to see the video version of computer weekly InfoWorld columnist Robert X. Cringley's (no, that's not a real name) best-seller Accidental Empires. The book is a look at the bizarre background of the personal computer industry: how a bunch of kids "who couldn't get a date" founded companies worth billions of dollars and ultimately created the environment that led to this column. If the video version is anything like the book, it should be entertaining viewing.

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