The Northern Spy: a look at being 'insanely proprietary'
TweetFollow Us on Twitter

The Northern Spy: a look at being 'insanely proprietary'

By Rick Sutcliffe
Being insanely proprietary can be both a strength and/or a weakness. On the negative side of the ledger, HP, Xerox, and IBM, by not being more particular about their in-house inventions and IP, all lost opportunities to dominate the personal computing market.

Oh, yes, IBM did for a while, but because the software was controlled by Microsoft, and wasn't exclusive, clones eventually turned their boxes into commodities, and they exited the market rather than compete on a consumer level — much to the Spy's surprise and chagrin, for he believes it was and remains a mistake. It wasn't a bad as Canadian Pacific exiting the telecommunications business in favour of Rogers, but of the same nature — abandoning participation in technological future megabucks for a handful of present-day dollars.

Yes, and one can scarcely count the number of technology companies that fell by the wayside due to complacency, failure of vision, lack of innovation, badly timed or marketed products, poor management, or internal disputes. The list is longer than this space, and grows by the year, with Blackberry and Sony in immediate danger, and Microsoft already on the deathwatch list. (PC sales are in steep decline, and Apple sales in equally steep increase — there are boing to be big casualties, and soon.)

Apple may be the ultimate practitioner of secrecy and producer of proprietary technology, and this has served the company well in most instances. The hardware is not easy to clone with any fidelity, the operating system is entirely in house, manufacturing is tightly controlled, vertical integration is the order of the day, and security rivals that laid on for a U.S. Presidential luncheon with the Pope at an Arab-owned restaurant in Jerusalem.m Look for more of the same--ventures into controlling entertainment content, delivery, and even the infrastructure for same, including big announcements this year.

Apple's few deviations have been costly. The experiment with allowing Macintosh clones had the smell of desperation, but was terminated before it got out of hand. Licensing some IP to Microsoft allowed the latter to create Windows — an MS-DOS extension and cheap imitation knockoff of Apple's OS — all too similar down to the programming interfaces, but fortunately for Apple, poorly enough executed to allow them to move on to much better, and now produced by a company that seems to have run out of ideas and lost its way. A Steve Jobs in charge of Microsoft would have eaten Apple alive when it was at the bottom of its cycle. His successors will do the same in reverse.

Keeping secrets has helped the marketing effort too. Months of speculation and rumours precede every product announcement, creating a pent up demand that results in a feeding frenzy on the day of introduction, and gooses publicity and subsequent sales to insane heights until the next round starts.

However (and you knew one of those was coming), the very proprietariness and NIH attitude that serves the bottom line in some ways can detract from critical mindspace in others. A case in point is Cupertino's gradually tightening noose on developers. Yes of course Apple wants to protect users and keep the ecosystem consistent, so requiring all development to be in Objective-C, done in XCode, signed, and approved before going into the Apple store partially makes one kind of sense.

But it does discourage, even choke off, any other kind of development. Apple is gradually making it more difficult to do experimental work, program in other languages, or even do certain kinds of research that require the installation of tools once included by Apple, but now omitted. Up to recent versions of XCode, for instance, an install came complete with various command line tools, not all of which were essential to developing inside the narrow confines of the store system.
These have been left out of XCode 5. At first, they could still be installed in the Terminal by typing:

xcode-select --install

but even this no longer works, as Apple has removed the command line tools from its server, and the command fails. At this point, ports or homebrew can still install most of what is needed. For instance, the following sequence installs homebrew, checks the installation, finds versions of gcc, and installs the (currently) most recent gcc.

ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.github.com/Homebrew/homebrew/go/install)"
brew doctor
brew update
brew search gcc
brew tap homebrew/versions
brew install gcc49

Yes, Apple still has a C++ in the form of clang, but unless packages that depend on it are re-coded in many places their projects will not compile against clang without numerous errors. In the Spy's case, he wanted a combination of the Alpha programming editor, the p1 Modula-2 compiler, XCode (and gcc) to work with the RASS library from ETH. All this was to test programs for a new dialect of Modula-2 — possible because there is substantial syntax overlap. Each of these four products is under active development, but only certain version combinations play correctly together, and Apple's constant changes to the XCode language environments and the APIs mean that developers require one environment to program within the Apple ecosystem, and others to do anything else.

Now the Spy fully understands that Apple wants things done a certain way for products it approves on its own OS, but for tools that, though Apple no longer needs them, developers may, and they do no harm installed, not installing them by default may make limited sense, but making it hard to obtain them at all just annoys developers. Programming environments are large and slow-moving. People who depend on them ought to be given more consideration and less grief. Developers are your friends, iTim, not your manipulatives.

Wasn't the Internet supposed to lower barriers, spread love and kindness,reduce prejudice, blur national boundaries, generally homogenize the human race, and put an end to war?

The Spy never thought so. After all, the nineteenth century goddess of progress in earlier technology was tasked with the same expectations, and eventuated only catastrophic failure. So, writing back in the 1980s, he opined that once the Metalibrary was instantiated and we were all brought virtually closer to one another's penchants, opinions, religions, cultures, ethnicity, and warts, it was at least as likely that dislikes, tensions, and hatreds would be exacerbated.

Indeed, he predicted that when the Iron Curtain came down, the ethnic groups in some of the eastern European artificial countries such as Yugoslavia, freed of the restraining Russian fist, would revert to their centuries-old hobby of cutting each others' throats. That enforced conglomerate broke part in bloody civil war, the old Soviet Union fragmented in Russia's economic and military exhaustion, Czeckoslovakia split more peacefully, and now it appears to be Ukraine's turn, for the guns are out once again.

However the divisions that people grow to hate the closer they see them need not be historic, religious, ethnic or linguistic as they are in Europe. They may be political, social, economic, or cultural. Chat room, bulletin board, Twitter, and Facebook debates do not produce consensus — they heighten tensions and sharpen differences more rapidly than ever. Why? Because we no longer live in a civil society, don't have a common code of ethics, behaviour, speech, or honour, and most people don't discuss issues. Even our parliamentary houses host debates that are at best mere show — not intended to conciliate or forge consensus ideas, but to rub the noses of the minority in their loss to the majority.

Elsewhere, things are worse, for so-called debate is often mere mud-slinging vituperation, and ad hominem attacks bent on destroying the credibility of opponents without conceding the finest point. Does someone have the temerity to disagree with you, Oh great and grand high-poobah of Sala-ma-sond who can never be wrong about the smallest detail? Why not steal a database of your opponents' associates, scour web sites for the email addresses of politicians, retail stores, churches, community associations and Internet businesses, then use it and any net forum you can think of to hurl mud, slander, false stories, disrespect, and vile names?

And before you say "Why not? It's a free country," stop and think. For how long? Are we in the west creating social, economic, religious, and political divides founded on the same kind of suspicion, ghettoization, vilification, and ultimately hatred that point us to the same fate as Yugoslavia and her imitators?

Sorry to decline participation, but the Spy would rather be out voted on the result of a debate or an election that he engaged politely, civilly, positively, and honourably, than "win" it with what have become the standard uncivil attack methods. Win what? Worse, such "winning" is pyrrhic — really a loss, and if we don't want Western Europe, the United States, and Canada to follow in the Eastern Europe march of madness, we'll step back from the rhetoric. It's too late there (the west has no appetite to intervene, especially given experience in the Middle East and Africa), and we may even be seeing the re-assertion of bully Soviet Union to keep order by force.

Can us turn from our own course before our political, social, moral, and religious hatreds mean it is too late? Maybe. Communication technology, like all its siblings, is neither a goddess nor an end, but a means. The question is to what end? Free speech will only remain free if it is responsible, and no heights of technology can overcome its users' incivility and penchant for hatred. Let's turn this thing around. The alternative is playing out before us.

--The Northern Spy

Opinions expressed here are entirely the author's own, and no endorsement is implied by any community or organization to which he may be attached. Rick Sutcliffe, (a.k.a. The Northern Spy) is professor of Computing Science and Mathematics at Canada's Trinity Western University. He has been involved as a member or consultant with the boards of several community and organizations, and participated in developing industry standards at the national and international level. He is a co-author of the Modula-2 programming language R10 dialect. He is a long time technology author and has written two textbooks and nine novels, one named best ePublished SF novel for 2003. His columns have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers (paper and online), and he's a regular speaker at churches, schools, academic meetings, and conferences. He and his wife Joyce have lived in the Aldergrove/Bradner area of BC since 1972.

Want to discuss this and other Northern Spy columns? Surf on over to ArjayBB.com. Participate and you could win free web hosting from the WebNameHost.net subsidiary of Arjay Web Services. Rick Sutcliffe's fiction can be purchased in various eBook formats from Fictionwise, and in dead tree form from Amazon's Booksurge.

URLs for Rick Sutcliffe's Arjay Enterprises:

The Northern Spy Home Page: http://www.TheNorthernSpy.com
opundo : http://opundo.com
Sheaves Christian Resources : http://sheaves.org
WebNameHost : http://www.WebNameHost.net
WebNameSource : http://www.WebNameSource.net
nameman : http://nameman.net

General URLs for Rick Sutcliffe's Books:

Author Site: http://www.arjay.ca
Publisher's Site: http://www.writers-exchange.com/Richard-Sutcliffe.html
URLs for items mentioned in this column
p1 Modula-2: http://modula2.awiedemann.de/
ETH RAMSES/RASS project: http://www.sysecol.ethz.ch/RAMSES/RASS.html
AlphaX programming editor: http://alphatcl.sourceforge.net/wiki/pmwiki.php/Software/AlphaX
Modula-2 R10--see the link at: http://www.modula-2.com/

 
AAPL
$108.00
Apple Inc.
+1.02
MSFT
$46.95
Microsoft Corpora
+0.90
GOOG
$559.08
Google Inc.
+8.77

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Vitamin-R 2.20b1 - Personal productivity...
Vitamin-R creates the optimal conditions for your brain to work at its best by structuring your work into short bursts of distraction-free, highly focused activity alternating with opportunities for... Read more
Dropbox 2.10.44 - Cloud synchronization...
Dropbox is an application that creates a special Finder folder that automatically syncs online and between your computers. It allows you to both backup files and keep them up-to-date between systems... Read more
Sandvox 2.9.2 - Easily build eye-catchin...
Sandvox is for Mac users who want to create a professional looking website quickly and easily. With Sandvox, you don't need to be a Web genius to build a stylish, feature-rich, standards-compliant... Read more
Cocktail 8.0.1 - General maintenance and...
Cocktail is a general purpose utility for OS X that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get... Read more
LibreOffice 4.3.3.2 - Free Open Source o...
LibreOffice is an office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing tool) compatible with other major office suites. The Document Foundation is coordinating development and... Read more
VMware Fusion 7.0.1 - Run Windows apps a...
VMware Fusion allows you to create a Virtual Machine on your Mac and run Windows (including Windows 8.1) and Windows software on your Mac. Run your favorite Windows applications alongside Mac... Read more
OneNote 15.3.2 - Free digital notebook f...
OneNote is your very own digital notebook. With OneNote, you can capture that flash of genius, that moment of inspiration, or that list of errands that's too important to forget. Whether you're at... Read more
Audio Hijack Pro 2.11.4 - Record and enh...
Audio Hijack Pro drastically changes the way you use audio on your computer, giving you the freedom to listen to audio when you want and how you want. Record and enhance any audio with Audio Hijack... Read more
Iridient Developer 3.0.0 beta 3 - Powerf...
Iridient Developer (was RAW Developer) is a powerful image conversion application designed specifically for OS X. Iridient Developer gives advanced photographers total control over every aspect of... Read more
TextWrangler 4.5.11 - Free general purpo...
TextWrangler is the powerful general purpose text editor, and Unix and server administrator's tool. Oh, and also, like the best things in life, it's free. TextWrangler is the "little brother" to... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Monster Flash Review
Monster Flash Review By Jordan Minor on October 31st, 2014 Our Rating: :: ALONE IN THE DARKUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Solid shooting and a surprising amount of spooky tension make Monster Flash a great portable... | Read more »
Retry Review
Retry Review By Rob Thomas on October 31st, 2014 Our Rating: :: SOARING HIGHUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Flappy who? Let Retry wash all those bad bird-related memories away on a cool retro-flavored flight… right... | Read more »
Dementia: Book of the Dead Review
Dementia: Book of the Dead Review By Lee Hamlet on October 31st, 2014 Our Rating: :: A TOUGH READUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad A witch hunter is sent after a demonic book in the spooky but short-lived Dementia: Book... | Read more »
Card Dungeon, the Semi-Board Game Roguel...
Card Dungeon, the Semi-Board Game Roguelike, Has Been Renovated Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 31st, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Logitech Protection + Power iPhone5/5S C...
Made by: Logitech Price: $99.99 Hardware/iOS Integration Rating: 3 out of 5 stars Usability Rating: 0.5 out of 5 stars Reuse Value Rating: 0.75 out of 5 stars Build Quality Rating: 0.75 out of 5 stars Overall Rating: 1.25 out of 5 stars | Read more »
This Is Not a Test Goes Free, Permanentl...
This Is Not a Test Goes Free, Permanently Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 31st, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Swap Heroes Review
Swap Heroes Review By Campbell Bird on October 31st, 2014 Our Rating: :: STRATEGIC SWAPPINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Rotate a cast of heroes to fend of waves of monsters in this difficult, puzzle rpg.   | Read more »
Night Sky Pro™ (Reference)
Night Sky Pro™ 3.0.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Reference Price: $2.99, Version: 3.0.1 (iTunes) Description: Night Sky Pro™Wonder No More™ Night Sky Pro™ is the ultimate stargazing experience. From the creators of the original... | Read more »
Audio Defence : Zombie Arena (Games)
Audio Defence : Zombie Arena 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: A zombie shooter audio game. Made from gut-wrenching 3D binaural sound, for a new kind of weird immersion. You... | Read more »
RPG Asdivine Hearts (Games)
RPG Asdivine Hearts 1.1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.1.0 (iTunes) Description: SPECIAL PRICE50% OFF (USD 7.99 -> USD 3.99)!!! Travel alongside four companions and a cat in the adventure of a... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Tablets Ascendent Again; Global Tablet Market...
The worldwide tablet grew 11.5% year over year in the third quarter of 2014 (3Q14) with shipments reaching 53.8 million units according to preliminary data from the International Data Corporation (... Read more
Apple now offering refurbished 2014 13-inch R...
The Apple Store is now offering Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 13″ Retina MacBook Pros for up to $270 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and... Read more
Apple Regains Momentum As Windows Stutters An...
The latest smartphone sales data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, for the three months to March 2014, shows Apple performing strongly in the first quarter of the year, with sales bouncing back in... Read more
Worldwide Smartphone Shipments Increase 25.2%...
New smartphone releases and an increased emphasis on emerging markets drove global smartphone shipments above 300 million units for the second consecutive quarter, according to preliminary data from... Read more
Apple now offering refurbished 2014 15-inch M...
The Apple Store is now offering Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 15″ Retina MacBook Pros for up to $400 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and... Read more
Apple drops prices on refurbished 2013 Retina...
The Apple Store has dropped prices on 2013 Apple Certified Refurbished 13″ and 15″ Retina MacBook Pros, with Retina models now available starting at $999. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and... Read more
New 2.8GHz Mac mini on sale for $949, save $5...
Abt Electronics has the new 2.8GHz Mac mini in stock and on sale for $949.05 including free shipping. Their price is $50 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model from any reseller... Read more
Sale! 3.7GHz Quad Core Mac Pro available for...
 B&H Photo has the 3.7GHz Quad Core Mac Pro on sale for $2649 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $350 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price for this model from any... Read more
Mujjo Steps Up The Game With Refined Touchscr...
Netherlands based Mujjo have just launched their Refined Touchscreen Gloves, stepping up their game. The gloves feature a updated elegant design that takes these knitted gloves to the next level. A... Read more
Sale! Preorder the new 27-inch 5K iMac for $2...
 Abt Electronics has the new 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale and available for preorder for $2374.05 including free shipping. Their price is $125 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this... Read more

Jobs Board

Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
…Summary** As a Specialist, you help create the energy and excitement around Apple products, providing the right solutions and getting products into customers' hands. You Read more
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** Being a Business Manager at an Apple Store means you're the catalyst for businesses to discover and leverage the power, ease, and flexibility of Apple Read more
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** As more and more people discover Apple , they visit our stores seeking ways to incorporate our products into their lives. It's your job, as a Store Read more
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** At the Apple Store, you connect business professionals and entrepreneurs with the tools they need in order to put Apple solutions to work in their Read more
Solutions Specialist with *Apple* Knowledge...
Company Description: We are an Apple Authorized Sales and Service Provider. We have been selling and servicing Apple computers in the Fairfield County area for over Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.