Issue No.2 July 21st 1997

Last week Issue 1


Spare Parts

Web Marketing

Issue 3

Thanks for the comments on the first issue of DMN, here's more of the same mix of multimedia news heavily weighted towards online media. If you're a first time visitor and want to know more about who we define as a digital mechanic we explained it here. If you have suggestions or a press release and news items to share, email us, and, we'd love to get the newsletter out to a wider audience, so if you'd like to link to us, or include us in your site content, just ask. (That's free content, with just a petrol sniff of self promotion!)

Fred Harden & Doug Bailey
Head mechanics

In this issue, Virtual Pets, the SubZero Site, the ListenUp audio player, two new wine sites, and lots of other bits.

Here come the Virtual Pets.
Forget the keychain bound Tamagotchi's, what you need is a Norn. Mindscape Inc. headquartered in Novato, Calif., with offices in Canada, England, France, Germany, Japan and here in Australia, have started US shipping of
Creatures, a 'virtual pet' software product developed by UK company Cyberlife Technology Ltd.

The software has been available here in Australia since December, and the product already has a number of
fan web sites, a response that according to John Moore, chief executive officer of Mindscape, was unexpected. "We knew that gamer interest in Creatures would be significant" he said, "but what has really amazed us has been the response we've seen outside of the traditional gaming community. Everyone wants a virtual pet now, from teenagers to science teachers to my brother who can't stop his VCR from flashing 12 o'clock."

Creatures, is a commercial artificial life product that has collected rave reviews from gamers and scientists alike. The software introduces "an entire world of Norns with life and personalities of their own. Norns hatch from eggs, live and breed inside the computer, and have the ability to learn and act independently as they grow and explore their virtual world."

Last month Mindscape signed a distribution agreement with PF.Magic to distribute PF.Magic's popular Dogz and Catz virtual pets titles. Dogz hit the stores in 1995 and together with Catz has sold close to one million copies worldwide. Creatures is set to top that if the reaction by the children in my house is an indication.

Creatures is available for Mac and PC and users who can swap breeding 'stock' and send their Norn on holidays by email. Maybe it's the impact of Creatures (Cyberlife even have an artificial life
Philosophy page), and their sophisticated cycle of learning, sexual attraction, mating and finite life spans, but significantly the simpler Dogz and Catz web sites are soliciting owners feedback to decide "Should Virtual Pets die?"

Hmmmm....wait for it, next week, the virtual pet that plays on the freeway.

From its Techno opening with <low source / hi source> wire frame/ render screen graphic, the copy line 'No sub adults. Those only of the age of consent need access', the new Australian SubZero site leaves no doubt about the audience it's after. The national club listing, DJ and fashion information is presented in strong black and white reflecting the equally strong SubZero Brand ID. The fashion news has been written by someone who knows or at least religiously reads the overseas mags. Sample Tip. Think smalls - underwear as outerwear is in for evening. (For girls that is.) There's even a spinning SubZero bottle top screen saver for (PC's only) to download. Main Bitch? The tiny black and white Courier type was hard to read on a 640 x 480 screen, and really hard to read on 800 x 600.
The site is nicely put together by
Spin Communications. FH

1,2,3 (then the Java Demo)

I picked up the Audio Highway Listen UpTM story from WIRED but I've just got around to going to the Listen Up web site. While everything is still promised 'real soon now', the idea is good and even if you believe we'll be downloading this information to our palmtop PCs instead of another stand alone device, Audio Highway might get there first. Try the simple Java demo (careful, it crashed Netscape 4 Rel. 4 when I switched pages while it loaded but that was probably just beta bugs) and then check the number of tiny Gif shrapnel in your cache, that the applet loads. It's slick, if a little superficial, but I'll add it to my list of web device demo's along with the first downloadable (not the current Shockwave one) for Palm Pilot and a couple of others. FH

The Lubritorium

Even in the digital age, vital parts can’t hum along forever without a visit to the Lubritorium. That’s why we’ve kept the lube bay out the back - it neatly corrals all the indulgence sites we keep opening. When the smoko horn blows, besides sticky pink buns and pineapple donuts, cheek by jowl with instant, steaming Java, we finely tune our palates at virtual wine and food tastings.

So as our second newsletter pops it’s cork we welcome you for the first and not the last time, into the Lubritorium, for an occasional taste of the digital dolce vita. Enjoy. DB

We think the first click on the world wine web is in North California. The winery is Robert Mondavi, and his wines and his web site are both first class. If it’s your first Mondavi, you’ll believe, that a virtual tasting can make the real thing even more rewarding. But with two new Australian Wine sites in the news, we'll click on to the first of these Australian contenders.

The Grape Online Liquor Store, springs from the success of the good food and wine at The Grape Wine & Food Bar in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley. (I remember a good lunch there after a TV shoot ages ago). This is a true secure order shopping site with credit card ordering and fast shipping. The site was built by Brisbane company DVP (Digital Video Productions) and seems to be very clean and simple compared to many other shopping sites, apparently something they worked hard at achieving. The Shopping Basket which holds your total bill, for example, stays on screen the whole time. There's a good search called The Wine Finder that makes selections based on your choice of price range, style, region etc. These suggestions are linked to a short description and a (sometimes a bit fuzzy) label pic. The three column framed format is cramped on a 640 x 480 screen, but works well on a bigger one. That's ok though, we reckon if you can afford to buy good wine, you can afford to have a bigger screen. FH

Dionysus Australia is the first true Australian online only wine vendor (apparently they had a hell of a job getting the licence) and it is trying very hard to be Web savvy. There's no problem with browser sizes on this site. It detected our browser and offered a customised version.

We had mixed success accessing the site and rather than boring you here, we've put the full sad story in the degreaser trough.

Spare Parts

~ Clean vs. Dirty in Web design
Drop in on the discussion on
FEED where David Bennahum reviews new books by Edward Tufte, "the emissary of clean design, and the rebel yell of David Carson, Ray Gun magazine's erstwhile bad-boy of dirty design".
The books, Edward Tufte's
Visual Explanations and Ray Gun: Out of Control are all about print design, but Bennahum draws the argument into web design. The article itself is designed by Irwin Chen and features the nifty little navigation bar below. Run your mouse over it, there's no link in this version but online each square leads to the next page, and the red dot moves along.

~ Java Competition. While you're polishing up that latest applet, that the client will never appreciate the head hours you've spent, consider submitting it to someone who will. eMERGE, the Victorian Multimedia Centre is coordinating a Java competition for Java developers in the Australia/ Asia Pacific area. The details can be found on the web site:

Book me in - Events

1-2 August 1997 3rd National Entertainment Industry Conference
Sydney's ABC Radio Centre
Harris St., Ultimo.

3 - 8 August 1997 Siggraph '97
Los Angeles Convention Center
Los Angeles, CA
(312) 644-6610

11-14 August 1997 Internet World '97
Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre,
Conference 11-14 August 1997
Exhibition 12-14 August 1997

Web Marketing

Picking up local speed and looking better every week, is the Mecklermedia/Kirby Network services paper/mag WebWeek. Australian editor Gerard Knapp gets the mix of local and overseas material just right and hopefully the advertisers will jump on this opportunity to reach a wide range of IT and Web designers. We've seen the weekly on some of the best desks in publishing and advertising around town. You can still get a complimentary subscription by filling out the card in the magazine or better still, online. Do it now and tell a friend!

For a good overview of PUSH vendors, see Lee Fleming's Web Broadcasting: an Overview , an adaptation of an illustrated talk he gave on push technology and streaming media at Thunderlizard Productions' Web Broadcasting '97 conference in San Jose, California in June this year. (The links to the later parts of the article on Streaming media were broken when I looked)

Not so useful but also on the @vantage site, is a short sample feature from Jupiter's Online Marketplace Newsletter called Moving Off-line Purchases Online, an overview of the advantages and main differences in 'location' marketing' vs. the web based convenience model.


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