RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — Two Triangle area firms have moved quickly to capitalize on the latest versions of the Macintosh operating system, and in very different ways.

CEI, the very high-end visualization software firm in Apex that was spun off from supercomputer firm Cray a decade ago, announced Monday that it would support the new Mac product since it supports 64-bit operations as opposed to less sophisticated 32-bit.

At almost the same time, Lulu made available a technical guide either as a downloadable PDF file or as an instant press book.

Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger is the newest version of the Mac operating system, and it offers a wide variety of enhancements to earlier versions such as Panther. It’s the fourth update since March of 2001, and with each version Apple is making the system more appealing to sophisticated users such as engineers and designers.

The Washington Post published a somewhat critical review of Tiger on Sunday, calling the release “doesn’t quite have an immediate, must-buy-now appeal”. But CEI decided months ago that the forthcoming release deserved support since Mac is gearing up for sophisticated use and more CEI customers want to use powerful Mac machines such as the G5.

The folks at CEI, which have complex visualization software used by every team of the Formula One Grand Prix racing circuit and international aviation giants Boeing and Airbus, see Tiger’s appeal much differently.

“Apple seems to be the darling of the computer industry at the moment, and we have been pleased with the results,” Darin McKinnis, a Mac guru and vice president of marketing and sales at CEI, tells Local Tech Wire.

“The reason Tiger is exciting to our customer base is that most use 64-bit platforms, usually Unix or Linux. With the G5 Mac, Apple became a 64-bit company. But the truth is, until Tiger they didn’t support 64-bit. We’re all excited that Tiger is 64-bit.”

While Macs have long been the darlings of graphic artists, more and more engineers are embracing Apple as an alternative to Linux and Unix. McKinnis points out that Windows is also embracing 64-bit, but McKinnis says CEI users such as government labs and agencies are asking about Mac.

“We were not supporting Apple until OS X,” McKinnis explains. “One of our developers (Jay Lyerly) is a Mac enthusiast. He looked into the problem (of porting CEI applications to Mac) and said ‘I think I can lick this.’ He really managed to make the port of it before anybody could say no.

“Customers have been asking us if we would support Mac. I wouldn’t say it was a large number, but government centers such as NASA and Army research labs had been asking us if there ever was going to be a Mac version of our software. We were telling them no, no, no.”

CEI’s products, such as EnSight and EnSightGold, are used for complex renderings such as weather calculations and aerodynamics. Airbus and Boeing, for example, are using CEI applications in the development of their newest aircraft.

The G5 64-bit capable Mac and the Tiger version will enable engineers to “capitalize on the power” available in new processors, McKinnis says. For example, before Tiger a G5 could support a whopping eight gigabytes of RAM but users could only “see” two GBs at the same time or run applications separately, he adds. “But our customers want to run all eight GBs at the same time.”

A Hit for Lulu?

Talk about instant press. Lulu, the print-on-demand and publishing firm launched by Red Hat co-founder Bob Young, is already out with hard copy and PDF versions of a book about the new Mac operating system.

Touted as the first in a series of guides about Mac OS X, the “Mac OS X Technology Guide to Automator” by Ben Waldie was released on Monday.

Automator is one of the most highly touted features in the Tiger release, and according to Lulu the Waldie guide is the first book available about it. The title is the latest in a series of technology-related titles from SpiderWorks.

“At the heart of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger is a powerful new tool that makes it a breeze to automate your time-consuming, repetitive tasks using applications like the Finder, iTunes, iPhoto, Mail, iCal, Address Book, and more,” SpiderWorks says. “Automator allows you to click-and-drag from an amazing collection of built-in Actions to create your own custom Workflows.” SpiderWorks will offer additional guides in the future.

Lulu is making the Tiger guide available in two formats – $14.95 as a downloadable PDF file and $29.95 in printed form.

For details about the book at Lulu, see: www.lulu.com/content/122494

Reviewing Tiger

For more information about Tiger from NewsFactor, see: www.newsfactor.com/news/Mac-Faithful-Rush-To-Buy-Tiger/story.xhtml?story_id=002000001GHU