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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 2, 2010

Happy sailing for ex-dentist's company

By Robbie Dingeman

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Coconut Info's John McGrady has created apps to help people learn Hawaiian phrases and names of places.

Photos by Coconut Info

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How long have you been in business? 24 years.

How many employees do you have? Just one, John McGrady.

Please describe your business? Coconut Info's emphasis is creating unique software and publications for private and public education, real estate, visitor industry, advertising, performing arts, health and Hawaiian culture renaissance.

What's your work philosophy? I try and enjoy my work. ... Work hard and save some time for play.

Big new thing? Two new Hawaiian-related computer applications available for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

Best tip for surviving in business these days? Don't quit and don't expect success in six months. I think people need to be more patient.

Fun fact: Owner John McGrady changed careers from dentistry to computers but still made time to sail the South Pacific.

Best way to contact: Online at www.coconutinfo.com

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Coconut Info has developed apps for iPad as well as iPhone and iPod.

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Coconut Info's John McGrady works on projects he loves: from creating custom software and writing a book to creating two new computer applications so far this year "Speak Hawaiian Phrases" and "Speak Hawaiian Place Names."

McGrady, 62, has been in business since 1986, building a diverse body of work that reflects his interests.

Originally from Washington state, McGrady and his wife and their three children pulled up roots in Washington state for adventure aboard their 34-foot sailboat which took them from North America to the South Pacific and eventually to Hawai'i to stay.

He wrote about the voyage in "Sailing the Dream," which landed on the Hawai'i bestseller list for a chunk of 2000 and had a second printing last year.

McGrady retired as a dentist as his interest in Macintosh computers grew in the 1980s. "I loved computers more than dentistry," he said.

He now works as a consultant designing software and Web sites. He said his most popular computer-related products included the first Hawaiian font in the state.

Commissioned by the state Board of Education under then-state schools superintendent Charles Toguchi, McGrady came up with Polynesian laser font, complete with diacriticals, which emphasize different meanings in the Hawaiian language.

He also has worked with noted Big Island artist Dietrich Varez, making available a selection of clip art, or pre-made images, for purchase, which has proven popular.

His two new Hawaiian language apps are sold in the travel section of Apple's App store and sell for $1.99 for "Speak Hawaiian Phrases" and 99 cents for "Speak Hawaiian Place Names."

McGrady said the Hawaiian place names app has about 160 place and street names, it is geared toward visitors who want to know more about how to say common names that turn up in directions, including "mauka, makai, Pali and Likelike."

Introduced last month, the early reviews call it "helpful" and "a great idea." Another reviewer wrote: "I just got back from Maui and wish I'd had this app when I was there."

The "Speak Hawaiian Phrases" app has more general appeal with about 200 phrases but McGrady cautions that these are not designed to teach Hawaiian or be encyclopedic. They provide an introduction and allow everyone to listen to the correct pronunciation .

You can flick through various phrases from daily life to Hawaiian sayings or even how to say "I don't have a cat." The opening frame of the app has a playful "aole pilikia" or "no trouble."

McGrady credits master chanter Ka'upena Wong for providing the authentic voice and expertise of these applications.

His latest expansion is to the touch-screen computers on the iPhone, iPod and the iPad, which debuts tomorrow. He enjoys the work but doesn't expect to make a lot of money from the new apps.

"I follow the carrot, which isn't always the money," McGrady said.

He feels good to be quietly helping to preserve Hawaiian language and culture. Watch a visitor who has learned to say "aloha kakahiaka" or good morning.

"They'll walk up and down the street saying it to everyone," he said. "Everybody wants to fit in and not feel goofy."

McGrady measures the success of Coconut Info by how happy he feels about the work he is doing. He compares it to sailing across the ocean where you pay attention to stuff that you might take for granted in a more traditional routine.

"If I accomplish something, I get turned on," he said. "Work of real value makes me happy."