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

FontExplorer X Pro 5.0.1 - Font manageme...
FontExplorer X Pro is optimized for professional use; it's the solution that gives you the power you need to manage all your fonts. Now you can more easily manage, activate and organize your... Read more
Calcbot 1.0.2 - Intelligent calculator a...
Calcbot is an intelligent calculator and unit converter for the rest of us. Featuring an easy-to-read history tape, expression view, intuitive conversion, and much more! Features History Tape -... Read more
MTR 5.0.0.1 - The Mac's oldest and...
MTR (was MacTheRipper)--the Mac's oldest and smartest DVD-backup app--is now updated to version 5.001 MTR -- the complete toolbox, not a one-trick, point-and-click extractor. MTR is intended for... Read more
LibreOffice 4.4.5.2 - Free, open-source...
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
Adobe Lightroom 6.1.1 - Import, develop,...
Adobe Lightroom is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $9.99/month bundled with Photoshop CC as part of the photography package. Lightroom 6 is also available for purchase as a... Read more
File Juicer 4.41 - Extract images, video...
File Juicer is a drag-and-drop can opener and data archaeologist. Its specialty is to find and extract images, video, audio, or text from files which are hard to open in other ways. It finds and... Read more
A Better Finder Rename 9.52 - File, phot...
A Better Finder Rename is the most complete renaming solution available on the market today. That's why, since 1996, tens of thousands of hobbyists, professionals and businesses depend on A Better... Read more
OmniFocus 2.2.3 - GTD task manager with...
OmniFocus helps you manage your tasks the way that you want, freeing you to focus your attention on the things that matter to you most. Capturing tasks and ideas is always a keyboard shortcut away in... Read more
TinkerTool 5.4 - Expanded preference set...
TinkerTool is an application that gives you access to additional preference settings Apple has built into Mac OS X. This allows to activate hidden features in the operating system and in some of the... Read more
Tinderbox 6.3.1 - Store and organize you...
Tinderbox is a personal content management assistant. It stores your notes, ideas, and plans. It can help you organize and understand them. And Tinderbox helps you share ideas through Web journals... Read more

Gallery Doctor (Photography)
Gallery Doctor 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Photography Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Free up valuable iCloud and iPhone storage with Gallery Doctor, the only iPhone cleaner that automatically identifies the... | Read more »
You Against Me (Games)
You Against Me 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: A simple game… You. Me. Claim, steal, lock, score, win! | Read more »
Yep, it's True - Angry Birds 2 is O...
The not exactly rumors were true and the birds are back. Angry Birds 2 has come to the App Store and the world will... well I suppose it'll still be the same, but now we have more bird-flinging options! [Read more] | Read more »
You Could Design Your Own Card for Chain...
If you've ever wanted to create your own item, weapon, trap, or even monster for Chainsaw Warrior: Lords of the Night, this is your chance. Auroch Digital is currently holding a contest so that fans can fight to the death (not really) to see which... | Read more »
Bitcoin Billionaire is Going Back in Tim...
If you thought you managed to buy everything there is to buy in Bitcoin Billionaire and make all the money, well you though wrong. Those of you who made it far enough might remember investing in time travel - and it looks like that investment is... | Read more »
Domino Drop (Games)
Domino Drop 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Domino Drop is a delightful new puzzle game with dominos and gravity!Learn how to play it in a minute, master it day by day.Your... | Read more »
OPERATION DRACULA (Games)
OPERATION DRACULA 1.0.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $5.99, Version: 1.0.1 (iTunes) Description: 25% off launch sale!!! 'Could prove to be one of the most accurate representations of the Japanese bullet hell shmup... | Read more »
Race The Sun (Games)
Race The Sun 1.01 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.01 (iTunes) Description: You are a solar craft. The sun is your death timer. Hurtle towards the sunset at breakneck speed in a futile race against time.... | Read more »
Tap Delay (Music)
Tap Delay 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Music Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Back in the “old days”, producers and engineers created delay and echo effects using tape machines. Tap Delay combines the warm... | Read more »
This Week at 148Apps: July 20-24, 2015
July is Heating Up With 148Apps How do you know what apps are worth your time and money? Just look to the review team at 148Apps. We sort through the chaos and find the apps you're looking for. The ones we love become Editor’s Choice, standing out... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple’s Education discount saves up to $300 o...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad at The Apple Store for Education and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free,... Read more
12-inch MacBooks in stock for $20 off, save o...
Adorama has 12″ Retina MacBooks in stock for $20 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only. For a limited time, Adorama will include a free Apple USB-C to USB Adapter, free 4-... Read more
College Student Deals: Additional $100 off Ma...
Take an additional $100 off all MacBooks and iMacs at Best Buy Online with their College Students Deals Savings, valid through August 8, 2015. Anyone with a valid .EDU email address can take... Read more
2015 13-inch 2.7GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sal...
B&H Photo has the new 2015 13″ 2.7GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro on sale today for $1199 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more
2.8GHz Mac mini available for $988, includes...
Adorama has the 2.8GHz Mac mini available for $988, $11 off MSRP, including a free copy of Apple’s 3-Year AppleCare Protection Plan. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax in NY & NJ... Read more
Updated Mac Price Trackers
We’ve updated our Mac Price Trackers with the latest information on prices, bundles, and availability on systems from Apple’s authorized internet/catalog resellers: - 15″ MacBook Pros - 13″ MacBook... Read more
High-Precision Battery Fuel Gauge IC Extends...
Renesas Electronics Corporation has announced its new lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery fuel gauge IC, the RAJ240500, designed to extend battery life for connected mobile devices such as tablets, notebook... Read more
27-inch 3.3GHz 5K iMac on sale for $1799, $20...
B&H Photo has the 27″ 3.3GHz 5K iMac on sale for $1799 including free shipping plus NY tax only. Their price is $200 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model from any Apple... Read more
Twelve South Free Dual Screen Backgrounds Co...
Twelve South has posted a second collection of travel Desktop photos, noting: For the Twelve South team, a vacation is never just a vacation. It’s a time to try out new prototypes on the road, visit... Read more
Apple Refurbished iMacs available for up to $...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished iMacs available for up to $380 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac – $1949 $... Read more

Jobs Board

Engineering Manager, Search Relevance, *Appl...
**Job Summary** Apple 's new Spotlight Suggestions service provides fast, relevant search results from the Inte et in Spotlight and Safari on iOS and OS X. We are looking Read more
Lead Infrastructure Engineer - *Apple* /Mac P...
…of a team * Requires proven problem solving skills Preferred Additional: * Apple Certified System Administrator (ACSA) * Apple Certified Technical Coordinator (ACTC) Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
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* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
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* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description: Sales. Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales. Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.