TAC 41 Index
System requirements: PC running Windows 95 or 98, Pentium preferable with 16MB RAM, 14MB hard disk space if photos are run from CD, 70MB if photos copied to hard disk; 256-colour display minimum, but 64k colours at 800 x 600 resolution is better; CD-ROM drive.
Price: #38. Available direct from Les Miller, Cherwell, Oatlands Terrace, Galashiels, TD1 3DB, 01896-753525, LesMiller@compuserve.com, http://visitweb.com/climber
Reviewed by Perkin Warbeck
ANOTHER Munro-based multimedia CD flops on to the doormat in the TAC offices. They're rolling off the presses now - or at least what passes for presses in the world of the CD-ROM. I suspect it's some sort of Gallium Arsenide infra-red writing laser. (That's enough chemistry - Ed.) Hardly time to draw breath from last month's SMC offering before this one from Les Miller spins up on the old 20-speed and self-installs.
Climber is slightly different from usual in being a two-stage installation: database functions followed by the main beastie. This appears to be because the database functions owe something to Borland, the people who brought you the Paradox database. The running of the package is mostly seamless - driven by a typical Windows menu bar. I say "mostly" inasmuch as I have a couple of bones to pick with Les over the curious lack of typical Windows functions like scroll bars in the hill lists and the rather odd omission whereby the Escape key doesn't get you out of the current menu item. Some of us have spent half our lives with right hand stroking the cursor keys and left hand jumping from Alt to Ctrl to function keys to Escape. We take it badly when that functionality is taken away. I am sure it's better for avoiding the old RSI than cementing your hand to the mouse.
Readers of my previous reviews of multimedia CDs (TAC30, TAC40) will be familiar with the refrain "it damn well better have bells and whistles" which I trot out in running the rule over contenders. Climber is a bit short in this department: no videos, no sounds, no panoramas. But despite my previous protestations I am still a fan. Primarily, I like it because it appears to be a labour of love. On the face of it the package is a list of hills, a set of maps, a record of ascents and lots of photos. However, it also allows a level of personalisation that none of the others so far has allowed. For example you can draw your own route on to the maps and add all sorts of stories of derring-do. You can add your own photos too, which is nice. Not that Les's photos aren't of quite a high standard and there are 785 of them including nine of the Cobbler. Can't say fairer than that.
Another quirky but entertaining feature is the presence of demo data, which are Les's own logs. These are disproportionately packed with incidents of the following type: "I slipped at one point and slid on my back directly towards a river gully, but was caught in time by Colin", or "Alec went first, and got down OK but warned us it was icy. I followed, slipped on to my back, gathered speed, but managed to stop myself beside a large boulder. Russell, undaunted, tried next, and also lost his footing on the ice; I tried to grab him as he came past, resulting in both of us tumbling downwards, stopping ourselves with our axes - luckily just before the boulders". Sounds like Joe Simpson could learn from our Les.
I have a couple of other gripes: you can't search for a hill, or browse by anything other than height or section. An alphabetical browse would surely have been an idea. But on the other hand, when looking at a map, all the hills with photos can be highlighted and double-clicked to go to the photos. This is a nice feature. I am all for double clicks. I also like the way he randomises the title pictures. Little things like that all add up.
Finally we come to the cost, which is thirty-eight quid. This is a bit on the pricey side, given the aforementioned lack of bells and whistles. In a direct comparison with the SMC offering, which is about the same price, Climber doesn't do too badly. It feels nicer and it certainly didn't hang the machine once.
TAC 41 Index