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?