TweetFollow Us on Twitter

November 92 - Pointer-Counterpointer

Pointer-Counterpointer

Eric Berdhal and Jeff Alger

Eric,

    For eight years now, MacApp has been the only game in town. Sure, there's been Smalltalk V/Mac and the Think Class Library, but neither is a serious product for large-scale applications. Suddenly, we're going to have new, high-quality offerings from companies like Symantec, Taligent, Component Software, Visix, Electron Mining (see elsewhere in this issue), and not least Apple. There will be lots of cross-pollenation from technologies like X, Windows, Common Lisp and its bouncing new baby, Dylan, and other AI-derivatives. Where before we had strict parochialism, we will now have routine cross-platform development.

    What we're seeing is the emergence at long last of a competitive market economy in class libraries for the Macintosh. Ironically, it will come about roughly three years after the fall of central planning in eastern Europe, but hey, better late than never. Those of us who have lived with MacApp over the years (and no mistress could have been more loyal or more fickle!) are the keepers of the lore and should pass that lore along to the new generation. So, here goes.

    Apple has invested too little to do the job right but just enough to screw up the third-party market. One has to wonder whether a Taligent-sized effort within Apple years ago wouldn't have obviated the need for Taligent as a separate company. By changing compilers to suit MacApp Apple kept others constantly off-balance in language tools. By providing simplistic tools like ViewEdit, SourceBug, MPW, and MacBrowse free on ETO, but never really finishing them, Apple has hampered third-party vendors and products - Jasik's Debugger, AppMaker, Ad Lib, Object Master, to name just a few - that have consistently been better products, but lacked one critical attribute in the market: the Apple logo. Lurches in direction from version to version and even beta to beta have made it impossible for independent companies to recapture engineering costs. It has also discouraged people from writing books, developing training courses, or providing complementary class libraries. On reflection, I think Apple's resources would have been better used to set standards, enable technologies through technical assistance and seed funding, and provide a marketing umbrella for third-party products.

    As far as technology is concerned, I agree with you that versions 1.x and 2.x were quite well done, but that 3.x is basically a collection of features masquerading as an application framework.

    There were the expected number of misguesses for anything this complex. Compatibility with Object Pascal, in hindsight, was more harmful than helpful and looks a little silly now. Not using C++ version 3.x, pointer-based objects or multiple inheritance also looks increasingly like a big mistake. Backward compatibility with 2.x resulted in lots of redundancy but little benefit.

    There were good concepts backed by poor implementations. Behaviors, adorners, and certain aspects of event dispatch missed the more general (and simpler) principles of delegation and aggregation; they are also unevenly applied. Dependency management never quite settled into a coherent architecture and has been used in some positively bizarre ways. The 2.x view architecture was due for an overhaul and didn't get it. I can't agree with your praise of the dialog architecture, Eric. I'd like to see these areas rethought in future frameworks.

    There are glaring omissions: memory management, including garbage collection; data structures; object persistence and distribution; automated segmentation; data communications; and database support.

    MacApp 3.x suffers from a lack of architectural coherence. Learning MacApp is like walking into a house of mirrors. Eventually you learn your way around, but it's disorienting and you can't trust your senses. Even within MacApp there isn't a great deal of consistency, especially in the use of new features like behaviors, adorners and dependency management. One gets the impression that there just wasn't time to think things through.

    On the other hand, there are some things done very well in 3.x: exception handling, the overall approach to commands and events (though the implementation is not well-factored), instantiate-by-name and other uses of metainformation, support of System 7 features, printing (my favorite!), streams, the menu architecture, and the mechanics of windoids and tear-off menus. These should be studied seriously by any newcomer to the field.

    Despite the problems, I don't blame the MacApp team itself, for they accomplished a remarkable amount with limited resources. On balance, I'd grant an A+ for effort but only C++ for the outcome and a generous D for Apple management. The new kids on the block would be well-advised to study the reasons.

Jeff

Friend Jeff,

    I've been thinking over the conversations we've had about MacApp over the years, and we have had some barn burners, haven't we? Now that Apple is moving beyond MacApp, we have something new to consider: What can we learn from MacApp and take with us to the future?

    One thing I've always admired about MacApp is its vision and philosophy. I think the first thing I liked about MacApp was that is was a decent factoring of a Macintosh application. Even back in the days of MacApp 1.x, there were interesting features aimed at being factors of a Mac App: a rudimentary document structure, an encapsulation of a display, and some basic support for utility objects like lists.

    When MacApp turned 2.x, there was yet another factoring of a Mac App, one that was significantly different and better. The document structure was still not fantastic, but it did exist and allowed basic default functionality to be easily accessed. The hierarchical view system modeled the way developers want to display information fairly well. In many ways, the 2.x cycle brought MacApp close to a quantum leap in technology, where software development could truly leverage object technology.

    Then came 3.x. Unfortunately, I think 3.x consists of a variety of features that were grafted onto 2.x technology. MacApp deserved better and could have easily been the unarguably superior development environment. As it is it's still head and shoulders above the crowd, but the question remains: What can we learn from MacApp? More importantly, what is MacApp? Once we have the answer to that question, I think the rest will come easily.

    I see MacApp as a collection of interesting features, a few frameworks, and a couple architectures all thrown together in a package. In short order, here's the way I view the MacApp world.

    One of the oldest and most interesting architectures I see in MacApp is the View architecture. Although it is essentially unchanged since 2.x, it is still a fine piece of work. Views allow developers to display information to the user in a rather rich format. Look at this, now I'm spewing Apple marketing information at you.

    Built on this architecture is what is possibly one of the best ideas to come around, MacApp dialogs. After doing dialogs with MacApp, I can't see going back to using the toolbox. MacApp actually makes it rather pleasant to deal with this score. Well, I like it anyway.

    Then there are adorners. These objects, really lightweight views, look like an interesting experiment, but I'm not sure it was a success. I've always thought that they were too light to be true lightweight views and too heavy to just adorn a view. I'm also not thrilled that they require so much direct support from the view system, almost like they were shoe horned into place. Behaviors, yet another MacApp feature, have many of the same problems, but I feel less strongly about them.

    The other framework that is really cool is the command structure. How else do you encapsulate the Macintosh undo metaphor? This is a textbook example of how simple, obvious classes can solve what would otherwise be exceedingly difficult problems. What MacApp has done is even more impressive, setting the commands as the basic unit of work in an application.

    Then there are systems and architectures that are expected to be found in a mature object system. MacApp implements very nice access to the metainformation available from Object Pascal. Dependency management and a stream architecture is another one of those features you get used to seeing in object based systems. MacApp's implementation of these isn't entirely world class, but they are very usable even though they're not completely integrated into the underlying MacApp frameworks.

    Finally, MacApp has a lot of debugging and antibugging code. Another thing that MacApp dealt with mostly head on is the admission that exception handling has to be a part of the mainstream code of an application. The consequence is that debugging code and failure handling permeates MacApp and MacApp based applications, something noticeably absent elsewhere.

    So, with all these pieces, we should be able to find something that we can take with us, either in code, analysis, or lessons.

Stirring regards,
Eric

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Opera 47.0.2631.83 - High-performance We...
Opera is a fast and secure browser trusted by millions of users. With the intuitive interface, Speed Dial and visual bookmarks for organizing favorite sites, news feature with fresh, relevant content... Read more
Vivaldi 1.12.955.36 - An advanced browse...
Vivaldi is a browser for our friends. In 1994, two programmers started working on a web browser. Our idea was to make a really fast browser, capable of running on limited hardware, keeping in mind... Read more
Apple Configurator 2.5 - Configure and d...
Apple Configurator makes it easy to deploy iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, and Apple TV devices in your school or business. Use Apple Configurator to quickly configure large numbers of devices connected to... Read more
Smultron 10.0 - Easy-to-use, powerful te...
Smultron 10 is an elegant and powerful text editor that is easy to use. You can use Smultron 10 to create or edit any text document. Everything from a web page, a note or a script to any single piece... Read more
BetterTouchTool 2.304 - Customize multi-...
BetterTouchTool adds many new, fully customizable gestures to the Magic Mouse, Multi-Touch MacBook trackpad, and Magic Trackpad. These gestures are customizable: Magic Mouse: Pinch in / out (zoom... Read more
Drive Genius 5.0.5 - $49.50 (50% off)
Drive Genius features a comprehensive Malware Scan. Automate your malware protection. Protect your investment from any threat. The Malware Scan is part of the automated DrivePulse utility. DrivePulse... Read more
Apple Keynote 7.3 - Apple's present...
Easily create gorgeous presentations with the all-new Keynote, featuring powerful yet easy-to-use tools and dazzling effects that will make you a very hard act to follow. The Theme Chooser lets you... Read more
Apple Numbers 4.3 - Apple's spreads...
With Apple Numbers, sophisticated spreadsheets are just the start. The whole sheet is your canvas. Just add dramatic interactive charts, tables, and images that paint a revealing picture of your data... Read more
Apple Pages 6.3 - Apple's word proc...
Apple Pages is a powerful word processor that gives you everything you need to create documents that look beautiful. And read beautifully. It lets you work seamlessly between Mac and iOS devices, and... Read more
Smultron 9.4.2 - Easy-to-use, powerful t...
Smultron 9 is an elegant and powerful text editor that is easy to use. Use it to create or edit any text document. Everything from a web page, a note or a script to any single piece of text or code.... Read more

Egg, Inc. guide - how to build your gold...
Egg, Inc.'s been around for some time now, but don't you believe for one second that this quirky clicker game has gone out of style. The game keeps popping up on Reddit and other community forums thanks to the outlandish gameplay (plus, the... | Read more »
The best deals on the App Store this wee...
Good news, everyone! Your favorite day of the week has arrived at last -- it's discount roundup day! This fine Wednesday evening we're gathering up the hottest deals on the App Store. We've got action platformers, we've got puzzle games, we've got... | Read more »
Morphite (Games)
Morphite 1.08 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $7.99, Version: 1.08 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Fitness AR (Healthcare & Fitness)
Fitness AR 0.1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Healthcare & Fitness Price: $2.99, Version: 0.1.1 (iTunes) Description: Explore your Strava bike rides and runs in augmented reality. A beautiful 3D terrain map, powered by Mapbox... | Read more »
ARise (Games)
ARise 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: **ARKit only Puzzle game****Chapter 1 available now - More worlds coming soon!** ARise is an experience about perspective. Using the AR... | Read more »
The best games to play while you wait fo...
SteamWorld Dig 2 is out this week on PC and Switch, and people are understandably excited. This clever series by Image and Form combines our favorite metroidvania mechanics with an esquisite universe, excellent storytelling, and true wit. While... | Read more »
Drag'n'Boom beginner's gu...
Have you ever wanted to burn and pillage a village as a bloodthirsty dragon? If you answered yes to that question, Drag'n'Boom offers you the perfect chance to do so, casting you as an adorable little dragon that wants to set humankind aflame. It... | Read more »
Thimbleweed Park (Games)
Thimbleweed Park 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $9.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: A brand new adventure game from Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, creators of the classics Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion!... | Read more »
The best simulation games on mobile
There's nothing like a good sim -- from the seemingly ridiculous to the incredibly mundane, you can be there's a simulation game out there for your every whim. [Read more] | Read more »
INKS guide - how to create works of pinb...
INKS puts a clever new spin on everyone's favorite classic arcade game, pinball. The core mechanics are the same -- keep a little ball pinging around the board for as long as possible without letting it fall into the precarious holes in the board.... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple restocks Certified Refurbished 13-inch...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 13″ MacBook Airs available starting at $719 and 2016 models available starting at $809. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is... Read more
Is iPhone X Really The Future Of The Smartpho...
Should iPhone X even be called a telephone? It does of course support telephony and texting, but its main feature set is oriented to other things. It is also debatable whether it makes any rational... Read more
OtterBox Announces Full Case Lineup for iPhon...
Apple revolutionized the smartphone industry 10 years ago with the original iPhone, and OtterBox has set the standard of protection from the very beginning by protecting every generation of iPhone.... Read more
LifeProof Introduces What’s NEXT Cases for iP...
LifeProof built its reputation on sleek, ultra-protective iPhone cases. From 360-degree coverage to the first screenless waterproof case, the protection pioneer has always pushed the limits.... Read more
Apple Refurbished 2016 15-inch MacBook Pros a...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2016 15″ Touch Bar MacBook Pros available starting at $1949. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: – 15″ 2.7GHz Touch Bar Space... Read more
Wednesday deal: 15-inch MacBook Pros for up t...
B&H Photo has 2017 15″ MacBook Pros on sale for $150-$200 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax in NY & NJ only: – 15″ 2.8GHz MacBook Pro Space Gray: $2199, $200 off MSRP... Read more
2.6GHz Mac mini on sale for $599, $100 off MS...
B&H Photo has the 2.6GHz Mac mini (MGEN2LL/A) on sale for $599 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more
Snag a 15-inch 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro, App...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pros available for $1699. That’s $300 off original MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for a 15″ MacBook Pro currently offered by... Read more
Apple Refurbished 3TB Time Capsule for $279,...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 3TB Time Capsules available for $279 including free shipping plus Apple’s standard one-year warranty. Their price is $120 off MSRP. Read more
19% off Smart Battery Cases for iPhone 7
Amazon has both Black and White Smart Battery Cases for iPhone 7s available for $80.41 including free shipping. Their price is $18.59, or 19%, off MSRP. Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Store - Technical Specialist - Apple...
…customers purchase our products, you're the one who helps them get more out of their new Apple technology. Your day in the Apple Store is filled with a range of Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
*Apple* News Product Marketing Mgr., Publish...
Job Summary The Apple News Product Marketing Manager will work closely with a cross-functional group to assist in defining and marketing new features and services. Read more
Development Operations and Site Reliability E...
Development Operations and Site Reliability Engineer, Apple Payment Gateway Job Number: 57572631 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Jul. 27, 2017 Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple Inc. (U...
…about helping others on a team while also delighting customers? As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC), you will discover customers needs and help connect them Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.