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                      Review: Meeting Pearls 4 CD-ROM
                            By:  Jason Compton 
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Call them "The Non-Aminet FD Squad."  Call them "Citizens for Low-Priced
CDs."  They prefer to be called the "Meeting Pearls Team", but whatever you
want to call them, you have to call them "back."

The fourth Meeting Pearls conference has been held, and this CD is the
result.  Founded a few years ago by Angela Schmidt, who was sick of
expensive freely distributable software CDs, the Meeting Pearls series
consists of CD-ROMs put together by a group of German Amiga users and
software authors who come together to fill up a huge hard drive with the
latest and best in freely distributable software, and then get it published
for minimum cost (these days, 15DM or about US$10-$11).  The catch is that
if you like the CD, you're supposed to make a contribution to the group's
efforts, made simple through the inclusion of a bank deposit slip.

MP IV has come a long way from the first edition, which had an insistence
on using a then somewhat obscure thing called "MUI" and wasn't the easiest
thing in the world to get set up.  And while it still likes MUI and
Metatool in great proportions, the interface and CD access is far easier
than it used to be.

All you need to do to get running is to go through a short
assign-installation procedure, and then you're free to browse through an
AmigaGuide interface (or the CD itself, of course, through more
conventional means) to get what you're after.  Or use the included
FindPearls search utility.  Or, better yet, you can search the
documentation of just about all of the programs on the CD, which is a neat
trick, and quite useful.

In general, the CD is bilingual (English/German) although if you use the
Novice setting for the setup installation, you're not asked and it defaults
to German.  I find it's usually best never to use Novice mode for any
reason, but be forewarned in this particular case.  Sometimes links from an
English document will lead to German versions of other documents, while a
link elsewhere will garner you the English version you wanted.

If you were comfortable with earlier MP editions, or are a user of the
Aminet Amigaguide interface, you'll have no problems with this one.

The Meeting Pearls CDs are a great idea and have a certain potential edge
over Aminet CDs, which is that instead of just getting the newest titles of
a given couple of months, you're getting the personal picks of the past
several months of real people who come together with this specific goal in
mind.  It doesn't diminish the Aminet CDs, it's simply a different genre.

You could conceivably accuse the MP assemblers of having a "utilities and
tools" slant, as the Gaming directory is not huge, but the games that are
on there are of the better quality available--once again, the personal
choice outweighs the nature of "recent quantity."

One of the highlights is a pre-configured version of Ghostscript, which is
actually somewhat operable by a human being.  Ghostscript is a GNU-freely
available PDF (Adobe Acrobat) format document reader, as well as a
Postscript interpreter.  The output quality I tested with the Infocom
Masterpieces CD PDF manuals was not the greatest, but at least it didn't
crash as all of my independent Ghostscript installation attempts have done.
The configuration, however, is rather dependent on having the Meeting
Pearls CD in the drive.

At the price, if you're looking for a good way to catch up on FD software,
you can't beat Meeting Pearls IV.

Schatztruhe
Veronikastr. 33
D-45131 Essen
Germany
+49 201 788778 voice
+49 201 798447 fax
stefano@tchest.e.eunet.de e-mail
http://www.schatztruhe.de