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OPINION MARCH 12 , 2001
Talkin' Smack: Mac OS X Gold Master ... Finally

The transition begins

by David Nagel
Executive Producer
[email protected]

It's hard to believe it's finally happening. OS X has gone gold master and is now on its way to manufacturing for final shipment March 24. We've been waiting, what, six years for Apple's next-generation OS? And now Apple has given the first definitive sign that it will actually come together and make its way onto users' desktops in final form.

At some level I won't believe in OS X until I load it up and see my hard disk mount. After all, ship dates have been announced in the past, with no new product to show for it. But this time it looks to be for real.

I suppose this means we all have to start thinking about whether or not we're actually going to install it. I, for one, will. I have nothing to lose on the G4 in the office, and I have an obligation to you to try it out with the applications you use regularly and report on the results.

Of course, nobody can try out everything, and, in many cases, you're going to have to rely on assurances from Apple and your vendors that everything will be all right. For instance, are you going to upgrade your Avid system to OS X? We already know Adobe's not Carbonizing its apps for OS X in the near future. And what about all those Photoshop and After Effects filters you've collected over the years? What happens when those plugins stay Classic, while the applications go native? Or vice versa? Will my Media 100 system crash when I try to export to Real format?

Assurances.... They don't help much when a glitch causes you to loose a client, do they? So should you just keep running OS 8.6 or 9.x? Well, that's just the thing. Maybe if you plan never to add any new hardware or software to your system, sure. For that matter, you could go back to your Mac IIfx and run System 6. (It's actually faster in many real-world situations than the fastest Macs or peecees on the market now. But that's mainly owing to the low overhead of the OS.)

But most of you will need to add new hardware and software at some point. And, at some point, you're going to stop finding hardware and software that runs under OS 9, just as, when we made the switch to PowerPC, we stopped finding hardware and software that would work on the old 68K machines.

Yep, it looks like you're about to take a little ride on the OS X crazy train, like it or not. You'll be able to put it off, oh, maybe five months, but it's coming. After this summer, you won't even be able to buy a new Mac with anything other than OS X installed. At least this seems to be the plan.

Your best course of action, given free time that you probably don't have, would be to load OS X on a spare system and slowly add components and test them out as you go. Meanwhile, you keep your critical hardware and software running on an OS 9 system until you're sure everything's going to work on the new one.

I know there's trepidation about this out there. But let's not forget the armies of Macintosh creative professionals who constantly upgrade to the latest and greatest and still manage to get the job done. Granted, they—or we—spend a lot of money and waste a bit of time fixing up incompatibilities, but, in the end, it all works out, and we're more knowledgeable about our machines for the experience.

So should you upgrade to OS X right away? Short answer, yes. Slightly less short answer: Upgrade one of your systems, and see how it works out. Either way, don't come crying to me if something goes wrong and you can't meet a production deadline. We Mac users are the bold and the brave, not some bunch of peecee lemmings waiting for the other guy to take the first leap off the Windows cliff. Drink a bottle of whiskey and install it. Pull out your electric guitar and rock out while it's starting up. If it crashes, stick your guitar through your screen and go steal another one. This is OS X, brother! And that "X" don't stand for no "xylophone." It stands for the "X"es you'll see in your enemies eyes as they fall before our symmetric multiprocessing onslaught! Dos Equis, baby! Let loose the dogs of war!

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Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; host of the Creative Mac, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion and Synthetik Studio Artist WWUGs; and executive producer of Creative Mac, Digital Media Designer, Digital Pro Sound, Digital Webcast, Plug-in Central, Presentation Master, ProAudio.net and Video Systems sites. All are part of the Digital Media Net family of online industry hubs.

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