How Our OS X Rollout Was Hamstrung

by Scot Hacker

At UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, we have a room called "The Greenhouse" - a studio full of Macs used for teaching multimedia skills to budding journalists. Students learn to produce stories in tools such as Final Cut Pro and iMovie, ProTools, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, BBEdit, Flash, Cleaner, Quark, and others. These students are not, by and large, geek users - these are journalism students being exposed for the first time to a lot of new software in a short period of time. Our challenge is to find just the right balance between technology and journalism skills, and to make the process as easy as possible.

As the resident OS X zealot, I was pegged to investigate the feasibility of upgrading the Greenhouse machines to OS X. Sounded great to me. In the past six months, I've migrated myself, my wife, my father, and my landlord over to OS X without incident and expected this job to go similarly. I started by roping off one machine and setting it up as a prototype. What quickly became apparent is the fact that an institutional upgrade has a lot more baggage attached to it than a personal upgrade.

Consider the case of DigiDesign ProTools. There is currently no carbon/cocoa version of ProTools, and DigiDesign has been maddeningly silent on the issue. To make matters worse, ProTools is one of those rare apps that won't run in Classic mode. DigiDesign's silence makes my job difficult, since I have no idea whether to tell my boss we can go ahead with our plans or not. If it were just me, I would switch in a hot second to one of the other OS X-native multitrack audio mixers out there, like Bias Deck. But it's not just me - we have a curriculum built around ProTools because it's an industry standard. To switch to another product would also mean finding a new teacher for that part of the class. There's a domino effect here.

Meanwhile, Quark just released version 5 without OS X support - doh! If it were just me, I'd switch to InDesign. But it's not just me - we have the responsibility of teaching the industry standard to our students. We could run Quark in Classic mode, but we've heard a few scary stories about Quark in Classic.

Update: A reader with more intimate Quark involvement than us wrote in with the following comment:

... i can tell you first hand that there are ABSOLUTELY NO problems with quark in classic. we are a prepress shop, and have done a great deal of investigating OS X. the only reason we cannot switch now, is proprietary software from creo/scitex.

And then there are the peripherals. Most of our goodies work - CD burners and USB floppy drives, most of our printers, iMics, etc. etc. But what about the Nikon film scanners? No joy. And HP doesn't post drivers for the flatbed scanners we run (though their support dept did assure me that drivers are on the way).

So while everything else on our list of apps is available in Carbon/Cocoa versions, ProTools, Quark, and device support are beginning to conspire against me. Classic mode isn't going to cut it for these three, and I'm not even sure that would be the right solution anyway. I have numerous misgivings about Classic mode -- for example, a lot of student data is stored on network shares mounted over an SMB network, and the file panels in classic apps don't even see SMB mounts. That's a big enough problem in itself to make Classic mode a non-starter for us.

That leaves the possibility of having students boot physically back into OS 9 for some classes or tasks. OK, that works, kind of. Except for one thing: We wanted to use the security features in OS X to lock down the Preferences panels. With those locked down, students can't reset the boot volume without an admin password. Oops. Then again, we could just forget about the preferences security. But do that, and we're still left with the fact that students are going to end up leaving machines booted up into one OS or another, thus frustrating the next student to approach that machine.

Consider also the probability that a student working on a project will need to use ProTools in OS 9 and FinalCut in OS X, or some other mixed combination which will ultimately throw a technical obstacle into the student's path. While booting to another OS may seem trivial to you and I, you'd be surprised how much extra hassle it can mean in an environment like this. Not to mention having to explain how to share the same data between different apps on different operating systems on the same hard drive. Conceptually, it's confusing to non-technical users.

Short story: After much discussion with other tech staff here, we've decided to do a slow rollout. I'll install OS X on the machines, but we'll only use it on an as-desired/required basis. For example, I'll use it to teach my database development class, and our photo teacher may boot OS X for the sake of iPhoto. But aside from that, we're going to push forward with another semester of OS 9.

So here's the irony: Steve Jobs stands on stage next to a coffin and tells the world that OS 9 is dead. I've swallowed plenty of that tasty Apple-brand Kool-Aid, and firmly believe that OS X is operating system nirvana.

And yet, because the industry at large moves so slowly, we're hamstrung. Apple has provided transitional tools (e.g. Classic mode), but it's not good enough. We're dying to make the switch, but can't. What's good enough for the geeks is not necessarily good enough for the gander.

I'll keep you updated on our transition as the year progresses. I wonder how many schools and businesses are in similar straits right now....

How has your organization dealt with the "missing pieces" problem?


2002-06-12 22:54:51
Not Ideal, but Wise
Even though it seems a little deflating at the moment, I think your choice to begin the transition to Mac OS X is a good one. It will be as much a part of these journalists' future as many of the "standard" apps you cited.

Speaking of which, Quark has survived for years despite biting the hands that feed it. This time though, they may have bitten to hard. In all honesty, I've been sick of their attitude for a long time and hope that Adobe takes some of their market.

Say what you want about Adobe and Microsoft, but they have come through for us in supporting Mac OS X.

2002-06-12 23:43:20
Time to move on...
Sounds like a similar situation.
It's not clear what you mean that these are industry standards (I have no experience with those products). But it sounds like the same problem people have when we say, "Get off MS Office...Whatsa matta with you?" Of course, the inertia is debilitating because MS Office is considered an 'industry standard'.

But at some point you'll be forced to make a decision. Slowly and surely, organizations are biting the bullet and making a major switch because their supplier(s) is(are) not listening.

Perhaps, what I can suggest is give these folks an ultimatum. "We're moving on; Get with the program or we'll find an alternative who would gladly do business with us." Do you have a choice?

I know, easier said than done...just my $0.02.

2002-06-13 02:40:15
Not surprising
To be honest, I don't know of a SINGLE person who works with audio on the Mac who has been able to upgrade to OSX. There is NOT ONE Professional Audio / Midi package that is shipping that even runs under classic, forget about OSX.
Basically, we are sitting and waiting. Or, like a lot of users in this sector, we switch to Windows. Only under windows is software being updated right now. Apple, formerly the leaders in this market, have blown it. Time and again Apple has made it clear how UNimportant musicians are to them - from cutting down on PCI slots to not helping midi application developers (or encouraging them) to get to OSX.
it is a sorry tale. They may make good press releases about built in MIDI apis and MLan, but the bottom line is WE NEED PRO-TOOLS and CUBASE and PERFORMER and all the PLUGINS.
2002-06-13 09:40:59
coffin message for developers
The coffin message was directed at developers to give them the sense of urgency needed to get there products over to OS X. This message to developers should help alleviate the concerns presented in this article. It was not directed to the public at large. As the machine becomes more and more popular in the open source world (There are actually 4 unix developers including myself, that now own a PowerBook G4 and use it at work; 2 of us are original max zealots. The other 2 are brand new to the mac! With success like this, hopefully the big OS 9 developers will take note, and port their stuff quicker.
2002-06-13 11:01:28
Never change...
You said "If it were just me, I would switch in a hot second to one of the other OS X-native multitrack audio mixers out there, like Bias Deck. But it's not just me - we have a curriculum built around ProTools because it's an industry standard. To switch to another product would also mean finding a new teacher for that part of the class. There's a domino effect here."

I know the politics of the educational field, however, what you seem to be saying is that once there is a standard (ProTools, MSWord, etc.) it cannot be changed, because someone would have to create/adapt a new course. How does industry ever find out that something is better than their "standard"? How can it move forward???


2002-06-13 13:46:39
Never change...
Joe, I hear what you're saying, but I don't believe the technology industry is so rooted in education that it can't change without its assistance. The industry will find its own level - education's job is to prepare people for that level.
2002-06-13 13:49:38
Not surprising
Granted there's currently a problem with OS X and pro audio, but I don't think the field is totally devoid of solutions. Bias Deck is a highly respected and often-used multi-track audio app...
2002-06-14 00:48:02
Fujitsu scan partner dirvers
The Fujitsu Scan partner range of scanners are the only Mac compatible Document scanners I could Find . But no sign of a OSX driver for them so We can't progress to OSX . Note! Document scanners are no the same as image scanners. Much higher through put
2002-06-21 12:47:28
OS 9 ain't broke, so nobody wants to fix it.
Out in the wild, tried and true techniques and traditions don't die easy. Examples:

1. Scissors are also supposed to be obsolete in the world of graphic design. Yet at major publishing houses, cutting and pasting is a normal activity. Primarily today this is resorted to because the in-house software had failed to make things easier for production. Lack of training or skill? Irrellevant. Not enough time or money.

2. Mac OS 8.6? Who uses that anymore? Why, every mac production department which has been in business for many years usually still has older Power PC's with old CPUs hanging around their office, still churning out the goods as fast as the user can work, side by side with the G3s and OS9 G4s. The Power PCs have always made money and they still make money. And when it's clear that OSX can make money rather than costing money, it'll be in there too.

3. I really enjoy playing with OS X, but Photoshop 6 doesn't work properly in Classic. It's far, far cheaper for me to uninstall OS X than to submit to a dubious PS 7 upgrade. That's probably why the major software companies are so slow on switching. If the upgrade was free, however...

4. 'Alternative' software is just that. An alternative. And often times, using an alternative is like pointless slogging through thick goo. Once you get through the expensive and painful process of upgrading and training, what if it doesn't measure up? Unless the alternative is better than the original, there is no point in switching. That was my experience with InDesign (which I own). For all the hype, it failed to be better than Quark Xpress (which I don't own).
To sum up, current OS 9 mac users are production companies and freelance individuals with tight budgets. They need bargains, timesavers, and non-speculative non-hype cash-based reasons to upgrade. Not only that, unlike recreational users, they know EXACTLY what they want - they have very particular software and hardware needs that must be respected by developers who wish to pry some of that cash out of those tight fists.

2005-08-17 05:43:59
coffin message for developers
This is exactly the problem with the Mac mindset :
"With success like this, hopefully the big OS 9 developers will take note, and port their stuff quicker."

The world of PC and Mac does not need any more "porting", it needs REPROGRAMING! Ported sofware is pointless. It is reheated leftovers, all of the bad design and coding now gets a facelift and still doesnt' run any better....