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The Power to Serve

September 1999
Next-generation power workstations (HINT: like Apple's new G4) are catapulting prepress productivity to new heights—with help from the ever-omnipotent server.


More power. More memory. More speed. More storage. More flexibility. More performance. What prepress professionals wouldn't want more in the way of productivity from their power workstations? After all, the key word is power, isn't it? Otherwise, it's just a workstation—and doesn't that sound boring?

Up until the recent Seybold San Francisco show, the two most power-packed power workstations gaining graphic arts attention were Apple's 400MHz Power Macintosh G3 and SGI's Intel-powered 320 and 540 visual workstations, which sport a 500MHz or 550MHz Pentium III processor. The 320 now offers a 660MHz Pentium III processor. Both can devour Adobe Photoshop; both offer improved power and performance.

The SGI workstations come with the 1600SW sleek 18˝ LCD flat panel monitor, which displays impressive sharp, bright contrasts for color-critical work. The resolution for the SGI flat panel is 1,600x1,024, with 24-bit color and digital control. The Colorlock tool from SGI calibrates the 1600SW in two steps: It supports ICC profiles, enabling remote soft proofing over a LAN or WAN, and is compatible with Adobe Photoshop 5.0.

Seybold, however, showed G4. Bigger and bolder than G3, Apple Computer's G4 Power Macintosh, available in 400MHz, 450MHz and 500MHz versions, is so powerful, Apple Interim CEO Steve Jobs told Seybold crowds that the U.S. military has taken notice—ordering Apple not to ship the super computer to certain foreign countries.

The G4's speed is based on a core architecture that incorporates a 128-bit Velocity Engine that processes four 32-bit floating point operations in one computing cycle. In recent tests, an Apple G4 500MHz proved to be approximately three times faster than a comparably equipped 600MHz Pentium III at handling a variety of Photoshop operations.

As a bonus to the G4, Apple is marketing its companion, a 22˝ flat-panel color monitor that is dubbed the Apple Cinema Display—a 1,600x1,024 pixel display monitor, which lists at $3,999, roughly $500 more than the 500MHz G4.

How will servers serve the likes of the highly classified G4?

While approaching the power workstation from different perspectives, each of these mega-computers designed to catapult prepress performance to new levels should come with the following disclaimer affixed to their casings: No wimps allowed.

Recent developments in the area of power workstations should send a caution flag up for users. These power workstations are very powerful indeed—some are so powerful that it is tempting to use them as servers. The caution that this predicates is best summed up by the statement "neither a workstation and a server be." It is believed that, had Shakespeare been a commercial printer, this may have been his mantra.

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