July 6, 2011

ALERT: Apple Announce OS X Lion – Time to Upgrade?

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 10:48 am

Our advice?  An Emphatic NO!

July brings with it the release of Apple’s most recent “Big Cat” operating system, Lion.  Where Snow Leopard was all about developments “under the hood” that the typical user enjoyed the benefits of, but didn’t really see in the interface, OS X Lion is all about the interface.

From the Apple OS X Lion “What’s New” page: “People have been doing the same things on computers for years. Clicking. Scrolling. Installing. Saving. With OS X Lion, we’ve challenged the accepted way of doing things by introducing new features that change the way you use a computer.” (link to Apple OS X Lion page here.) It sounds like no less than an effort to change personal computing to the same interface as a smartphone or an iPad.  Very exciting.

Yet, very much a concern for anyone who makes their living in digital imaging.  Why?  Basic tools like Color Management between the OS and Adobe, printer drivers for our daily-bread printers like Epson, HP and Canon, and color management systems are getting caught in the corporate crossfire created by the Apple system changes, and the imaging user is getting left for dead.  Specifically, Snow Leopard, Photoshop CS5, and some specific printer drivers are still, simply, broken.  Apple blames Adobe, Epson blames Apple, Adobe blames everybody…  you get the picture.  But nobody is fixing the problem.  And this is Snow Leopard, the current OS, fuggetabout anything new.

What are we seeing?  There have been some severe driver issues where basic functions like printing with color management turned off are impossible.  Several older Epson printers simply don’t have drivers available for Snow Leopard.  Apple fielded Rosetta, an emulation workaround (remember “Classic”?) that has limited success running legacy software at best.  Color Management in Snow Leopard has produced unreliable results.  It’s an exercise in futility to try to get help from the responsible parties…  even on the forums, the Epson, Apple and Adobe “players’ are playing hot-potato with the issue, and there simply are no workarounds.

What should you do?

If you rely on good color management and predictable results from your printing system, do not upgrade, even to Snow Leopard.  We use Photoshop CS4 and Leopard for our imaging workstations.  We’ve been forced, several times now, to suggest to our clients to bring their old Leopard (10.5) workstations back on line to solve their driver/Color Management issues.  Simply put, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

You should always keep a “legacy” system online, or at least waiting in the wings.  Even if your older system has failed in some way, what seems impractical to repair today, may seem a lot more cost-effective in a year – when nothing will run your printing system anymore.

If you’d like to have the latest, greatest toys, and simply must play with OS X Lion, then do it on a non-essential machine.  Better yet, go buy yourself a new laptop you can play to your heart’s content on…  but don’t mess with your income.  Your imaging workstations are your cash cow.  Resist the urge to tamper with them.

What if you need a new machine?  Are there solutions to running good imaging workflow on OS X Lion?  Not that we’re aware of.  You cannot buy a new Mac and install Leopard on it – it won’t run the hardware.  You can’t “backtrack” the OS.  Will updates and patches fix the issues?  Nobody can say.  There is one possible workaround, and that is to work with a “Virtual Machine”, through programs like Parallels and VMware Fusion. Using these, you can run other operating systems on your Mac.  Like Windows.

And Windows7, ironically, is running imaging systems just fine, thank you.

For some interesting reading (some current information along with some good commentary), check out the Luminous Landscape forum discussing OS X Lion and printing: here.

From there comes the best advice, via David Watson:

“The most important aspect of using a computer as a tool (rather than a software development machine) is that it runs reliably and quickly enough to the job.  Only when applications start to demand an OS upgrade to continue functioning should one consider it. “

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