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Beginning next month, things are going to get very interesting in prepress departments across the commercial printing landscape. That’s because starting in January all new Macs will ship with and only be able to run Apple’s new OS X operating system. Many people haven’t heard this news yet. It has been widely reported in the developer world, but many Mac users are unaware this is happening. Nearly all prepress departments are now currently running exclusively on OS 9.
The death of OS 9 was originally announced to developers in May. In his opening keynote address at the Apple Developer’s Conference, Apple Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs announced the death of OS 9. “Please join me in a moment of silence as we remember an old friend – Mac OS 9.” Jobs said, rolling out a boxed copy of OS 9 in a coffin. “It isn’t dead for our customers yet, but it’s dead for you.”
In September, Jobs announced that after Jan. 1, new Macs would no longer even be able to boot OS 9. It has been reported that this will be done via a software feature in Pinot. (Pinot is slated to be the next upgrade after Jaguar OS X 10.02). This configuration will still allow users to run some OS 9 apps in the classic environment, but not natively as users do now with OS 9.
The death of OS 9 has big implications for prepress and graphic operations. The first is that there are many applications that do not run in OS X yet. First among these is Quark. Quark does not yet have an OS X native application yet, although they are working on it. Because Quark 5 was almost complete when the death of OS 9 was announced, Quark 5 was competed as OS 9 native. Quark is working on an OS X version. Not having the industry’s leading desktop publishing design software available for OS X is a big problem. Imagine a prepress install in which four new Macs are included and none of them will be able to run Quark.
There are many other applications commonly used in prepress that currently do not have OS X versions. Some of these include Adobe PageMaker, Scenicsoft Preps, Scenicsoft Trapwise, Adobe FrameMaker, Adobe Photoshop 6 (7 does), Enfocus Pitstop and Instant PDF, as well as many other Acrobat extensions and common desktop publishing applications.
Most of the common and popular applications such as Quark will be developed to run native in OS X over the next year. One class of products that is more problematic are items such as dongle drivers, serial converters, and other devices that function in OS 9 now, but do not have drivers available for OS X. For example a customer running Greytag Color Management software which does run in OS X may have trouble actually getting the spectroscan connected via the serial to Universal Serial Bus (USB) drivers and may be unable to profile or calibrate monitors under OS X.
Other programs such as utility programs like Monaco Profiler are not available in OS X yet but will be. Other minor but valuable utility products will probably never be redeveloped for OS X.
OS X will not necessarily be an easy transition. Once the industry has accomplished the transition it should be a much better platform than the current OS, but getting there will be a struggle.
OS is based on Unix. This may seem to contradict the entire history of Apple OS usability and ease of use. While most tasks can be performed using the OS GUI (graphic user interface), there are still certain tasks that can be best accomplished via the command line interface, which is much like an old-fashioned terminal window. While this gives advanced users great power, this OS may be challenging for users who like the simplicity of the current Mac OS.
The ease of use of the OS may be gone. One example relates to file deletions. Unix systems contain lots of little text files. Deleting one such file can stop the entire system and bring it into a panic mode. It may not be the best OS for users looking for a friendly environment. It remains to be seen how well current Mac users adapt to the new OS. In fact, this operating system is more like Unix and more like Windows XP than it is like the old Mac OS.
On the positive side OS X is Unix. Being Unix it will offer the same stability and performance that Unix users have experienced for years. This means that memory issues between applications, and constant crashing and rebooting should be greatly reduced. System stability and security should be greatly improved to the point that it will crash less than Macs running OS 9, and less than Windows computers.
I have configured OS X servers that have run for the past few years with no crashes, with the only shutdowns occurring when the power went out. Other positives are that OS X is designed to interact seamlessly with Windows and Unix environments. For example, sitting on a large network, OS X systems can log on and mount both Windows and Unix computers with no additional hardware required. Although it is a Unix variant, it is not like Linux or other open Unix variants because it is not an open system and it is owned by Apple and not everything is shared and public.
As January approaches, and the forced migration begins, the prepress and graphics world faces some large challenges. It means that for some time that many printers, prepress houses and graphic design firms will have to support multiple operating systems — running both OS X and OS 9 in the same plant or office in order to maintain compatibility.
It also means that over time we will have to migrate from all OS 9 to OS X. How or if we can do this depends on they type of work we do and the applications in which we receive files. We will have to do it, because after Jan. 1 any new Mac you buy will only run OS X. At some point we will need more Macs, or perhaps depending on what we are running, even PCs. Imagine a big install in which only the new Macs run OS X. The application Preps department’s version on a Mac may be moved to Windows so the old Mac can be used for production. Computers doing pure tasks such as color management, trapping, imposition, or distilling pdf’s may also be moved to Windows platforms simply because they are available and support the current versions of the applications.
Perhaps the most daunting task during the beginning of the migration will be support. Even performing simple tasks that we do every day on our computers will have to be learned from scratch. The interface is completely different and many tasks are performed in a different manner. Basic things like opening or moving files can be done many ways in OS X, and many users will find themselves stuck while attempting to perform basic tasks. In addition, because it is a new and complex operating system, troubleshooting and providing support will be difficult at first.
There are some things that simply do not yet work or are buggy, and many devices that are not supported. In order to administer and support OS X, it helps if the person doing the system support work has some Unix skills and is good with the command line.
January is bringing us a forced migration. In the end, hopefully it will make prepress departments more stable and productive, but expect some bumps along the way to OSX nirvana.
About the author: Ron Ellis is a New England-based prepress consultant specializing in workflow training and integration. He has consulted on numerous CTP installations. He also consults on color management, integration, training, workflow development and trouble shooting solutions to the graphic arts industry. He can be contacted at 603-498-4553 or through his web site at www.ronellisconsulting.com.