Ready for X?

It’s always something! About five years ago I heard about the Linux operating system and I thought “Hey, it would be really cool to run UNIX on my Mac!” So I went out and bought a copy of MKLinuX and began to install it. After a couple of hours of cryptic installation instructions I was ready to reboot my Mac. I hit the “bing” button, you know the one that goes “bing” – then starts the Mac, and had one of those “Oh my God!” moments.

I saw no “Happy Mac”! Gone was the “Welcome to Macintosh” that makes all Mac users feel good about the world. Instead I saw a stream of white text messages on a black background. Then it hit me. This really is UNIX. For about another hour I fumbled around until I discovered how to start “Xwindows” and run “KDE”, one of the many UNIX GUIs. I played a game of chess, looked around and then gave up. It was just another GUI. Nothing more than MacOS or MicroSoft Windows, but I can’t describe the feeling at the pit of my stomach when my world turned that corner.

I received another shock last month when after happily installing MacOS X Jaguar (10.2). I hit the “bing” button and waited to be amazed. What I saw brought that same look of horror to my face. The “Happy Mac” was gone! Instead it has been replaced with a grey “Apple” logo. This was such a statement that I called my co-worker into the room to witness the moment. Apple has shelved the “Happy Mac” along with Clarus the cowdog (“Moof!”) and the politically incorrect rainbow Apple logo. Is Apple trying to tell us something? Is it time to get off the fence and join the rest of the Mac world and move to OSX?

Well. Not just yet. If you read my column last month you’ll remember that the missing piece of the OSX puzzle is Quark Xpress, at least for us publishing types. The rumor mill has recently started buzzing that Quark is getting set to release a MacOS X version of Xpress early in 2003, at about the same time that Apple will ship Macs that will no longer boot into MacOS 9. Armed with these thoughts and my newly acquired copies of Illustrator 10 and PhotoShop 7, I went ahead with the Jaguar install.

Don’t get me wrong I actually love MacOS X and use it every day. However, I use it on my PowerBook, where I run Office X and do my PHP/MySQL web development. MacOS X isn’t running full time in our prepress production yet. We do run a couple of MacOS X file servers, which are rock solid and relatively maintenance free. Being able to run Word and Excel along with X versions of BBEdit, etc. has been great. If Xpress was MacOS X ready, we could all make the switch.

Illustrator 10 and PhotoShop 7 run very well on Jaguar and Apple’s software engineers have greatly improved the speed with which Classic starts. Classic is the MacOS 9 environment that older apps such as Quark Xpress, run in. Sure it’s a compromise, but there aren’t many applications that won’t run in Classic, if necessary. If you are really determined, you could switch to OSX now, but if you are like most healthy skeptics you would prefer to wait until you can get the most out the move. When Classic launches you get all the familiar OS 9 bits back : The Apple Menu, the Chooser, and your “classic” fonts, etc.
What happens next January when Apple ships those “MacOS X PowerMacs”. Well if you can stand the waves of “must have the latest Mac” envy, nothing will happen. You’ll continue to crank out pages, PDFs, posters and film (“Film!?!”) like you did in December. There is no need to dash off to the nearest Mac dealer to get your “new” Mac fix. Let Steve Jobs stand up there and demo the latest iCandy, while actually demonstrating that he’s forgotten the most important thing. That the publishing market segment made it possible for there to be a Apple Computer for him to come back and iRescue!

The rumor mill skeptics will continue to doubt that Quark will have a product ready by January, as do I. Remember it took them over four years to ship version 4.0, spurred on by the debut of InDesign. You may have also heard that there aren’t MacOS X drivers for your SCSI this or your Fast Ethernet that. Just remember this, if your still running a Mac that has a ABD keyboard, or SCSI peripherals, Apple forgot about you three years ago when they shipped their first million iMacs. Here’s the sage advice: Leave the jaw dropping moments to guys like me who regularly deal with a constant flow of “Sad Macs”. I’ll help you make the move to OSX – you won’t regret it.

PS. More UNIX stuff next time. I promise.

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