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Prodigal Mac: Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet?

Almost. But if you ask me one more time, I'm gonna stop this car and come back there By Kevin Schmitt
'Scuse me, but do you have the time? My watch reads about 11:55, and I'm not sure it's right. I could've sworn it's earlier than that. You see, Uncle Steve said that when the clock hits twelve the transition to Mac OS X would be complete, and my trusty Justice League of America wristwatch purchased back in the days when the '040 chip was about to give way to the PowerPC 601 is telling me that it's damn near twelve. Maybe my watch needs another battery, but, on the other hand, maybe it's actually correct. Maybe it is as close to twelve as it claims to be. Man, how time flies.

Mac OS X is barely a year old, and unless you're in the publishing field, chances are that you could use X on a full-time basis right now. That is, unless you're already using it. Which, it seems, more and more people (again, outside of publishing) are. And for all the complaining yours truly and, ahem, "other parties" on this site have done on various topics such as where the trash can went and just what in the hell was taking application X and driver Y so long to show up, in relative hindsight the transition to X has been every bit as remarkable as the transition to the PowerPC chip was back when I purchased the aforementioned Justice League wristwatch. And it's not even over yet.

Let me put this into a bit of perspective. Believe it or not, I was kind of looking forward to February 17, 2000. You see, that was the release date for (evil sounding intro music here) Windows 2000. Now, before you break out your flamethrower, let me remind you that I fully admit, if not embrace, my Windows past, and I think I've evolved enough to discuss it openly and constructively. Maybe I was still looking for any reason at all to further validate my abandonment of the Mac platform back in the dark days of 1998, but hoo-doggy, was I excited for Windows 2000. Maybe not as excited as I was when I first saw OS X demoed a month earlier, but excited nonetheless. In retrospect, I have no idea why I was so hopped up about a crappy old operating system. I struggled with Windows 2000 for six months, enduring IRQ conflicts, incompatible drivers and software and frequent reinstalls before I finally bagged it and moved back to NT. Before I re-embraced the Mac in September of 2001, I would vehemently argue that the transition from 9X/NT to 2000 was still in full swing. Nineteen months later, and major, MAJOR problems would still pop up, and, oh, by the way, at the same time Microsoft was busy trying to stuff the next version of Windows, XP, down the throats of their collective user base.

The transition to Windows 2000 from NT for me was a long, slow and painful process that ultimately didn't really offer me all that much. Which, from my perspective, makes the transition to OS X all the more astounding. In a little more than a year, Apple went from what was basically a pre-version 1 operating system to a pretty damned polished and functional piece of software. What's more, developers have jumped on the bandwagon. Sure, we've got the Adobes and Macromedias and even the Microsofts more or less on board, but we can also boast the Alias/Wavefronts and Discreets of the world now. Of the dozen or so core software titles I regularly use, I'm down to one that isn't native on OS X yet. Just one. And yes, I'll name names: Macromedia Director. Unfortunately, it looks like I'm going to be waiting a little longer for a native X version, since the slew of recent Macromedia MX announcements were conspicuously Director-free. But ultimately, that's a small price to pay. I rarely have to boot into OS 9 anymore, and I've gotten so comfortable with X as my main OS that it's almost second nature by now.

Ahh, but it's not all Froot Loops and YooHoo in Mac-land these days. OS X is picking up steam, but there are still some serious issues:

  • I'm still bummed by some of the sluggishness that seems to affect relatively mundane tasks in X. I expect many great things from Jaguar in this area, however.
  • If you're in publishing, chances are you haven't really messed around with X yet, unless you're one of the relative few (it seems) who 1) has embraced InDesign as a true Quark alternative and 2) has been able to find a print house that will accommodate you.
  • With Pentiums (yuck) approaching 3 GHz and Athlons (a damn fine processor if I do say so my damn self) right up there as well, Apple needs to make a big leap ahead with their G-Whatever-Number-They-Want-To-Call-It offerings. And where's the professional stuff like DDR RAM and those GeForce 4 Titanium cards we were promised in March? Apple may be all the rage in the consumer space these days with the i(Mac/Pod/Book), but we're going to need much more on the professional end, and soon. Fast commodity boxes running Linux (or, ideally, OS X itself, but I'm not holding my breath) would really be a threat if there were some more commercial apps available for the Penguin.

So yes, there are some serious potholes lurking on the seemingly well maintained pavement of Infinite Loop, but hopefully they can be patched before one of them causes a massive multi-car pileup.

So, what's your story? Have you embraced X yet? Do you even plan to? What's holding you back? I'm going to attempt to take the temperature of the Mac community (by mouth or via ear, of course, for your comfort as well as mine) and see if I can squeeze another column out what you all have to say. So please, fire up the ol' email link below and let me know just how close to twelve your particular watch reads. And, of course, any respondent who can, in my highly biased opinion, top my Justice League watch with what they have on their watch face will get a richly deserved mention.


Kevin Schmitt has been a working with just about every aspect of digital media since before anyone really knew what to call it. An award-winning animator, artist, and multimedia producer, he is currently the head (and only) honcho of Kevin Schmitt Digital Design, located in the enormously bustling megalopolis of Charlottesville, Va. Whether you're looking to hire a digital artist for your next project or just wanting to give him the business about his latest musings, he can be reached at dmn@kevinschmitt.com. He's ready to believe you!

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Though the fame, riches, and notoriety of being a DMN contributor are both tantalizing and substantial, Kevin Schmitt still stubbornly insists on continuing his work as the Director of Interactive Services at EFX Media, a production house located just outside of Washington, D.C. Feel free to follow his updates and contact him through Twitter if you have something to share - he's ready to believe you!
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