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Apr 96 Newsbits
Volume Number:12
Issue Number:4
Column Tag:Newsbits


By John Kawakami, Editorial Assistant

Apple May Have Figured Out How to Use
the Internet After All

Apple’s QuickDraw 3D team is working to have QD3D adopted as the foundation for the next version of VRML, the Virtual Reality Modeling Language, the dominant VR standard on the Internet. The project and proposal, titled Out of This World, are viewable at the URL below. In order to participate in the development of VRML, Apple must follow the the rules set forth by the VRML Architecture Group, which are modeled on the Internet RFC process, an “open” process. That means that all competing proposals are publicly available on the Internet, and each proposal must be a functioning package. To compete effectively, not only must Apple show that their API is the best, but they must have proof-of-concept demos, free source code, free SDKs, and they must also provide some access to the engineering team.

What’s most encouraging about this effort to evangelize QD3D, we feel, is that it is like the evangelism for Internet Config, which is now a de facto standard despite the fact that it was not invented by Apple. (See MacTech 11.4 [April 1995] 24-41.) Internet Config’s open development stands in stark contrast to that of technologies like AOCE and QuickDraw GX, which were developed “behind closed doors”.

Evangelism for QD3D is also in line with Apple’s latest efforts to make more developer resources available for free on the Internet, and may signal a change in the way they promote new technologies.

Out of This World / QuickDraw 3D:

VRML Request for Proposals:

Internet Config:

The Usenet Macintosh Programming Awards

Once again, it’s time for the Usenet Macintosh Programming Awards. Matthew Xavier Mora has organized this annual contest to honor people and products in the Macintosh Programming world. Awards are given for Outstanding Programming for a Commercial Product, a Shareware Product, a Freeware Product, and a utility. There’s also a SmartFriend award for the most helpful comp.sys.mac.programmer.* net citizen, and an award for Outstanding Support of the Macintosh programming community.

Nominations are being accepted through March, voting will take place via email during April, and the awards should be presented at the Netters’ Dinner at WWDC ’96 in May. For details, keep reading and the other groups. (What? You don’t already?) If anything should change, the details will be disseminated via these newsgroups.

Since this contest is intended for programmers to honor their peers, one must answer this question to nominate a programmer: “What is the recommended sleep value for WaitNextEvent for a foreground Application?”

LPA Announces Fuzzy Logic Tools

Logic Programming Associates’ FLINT makes fuzzy logic technology available within a sophisticated programming environment. Fuzzy logic permits the use of imprecise and vague information, knowledge and concepts to be used in an exact mathematical manner. Words such as “fast”, “slow”, “very hot”, “slightly cold”, “not very hot” can be used to enhance traditional rule-base or expert systems. Qualitative and imprecise reasoning statements can be incorporated within these rule-bases to produce simpler, more intuitive and better behaved models. According to Lotfi Zadeh, the father of fuzzy logic, the linguistic, or “fuzzy”, description of a system is much more effective than a more specific, numerical or mathematical description. FLINT supports:

• standard and user-defined membership functions

• linear and curved membership lines

• automatic propagation of fuzzy values

• range of and/or/not combinators

• configurable linguistic hedges

• standard and user-defined defuzzification algorithms

The product is available immediately worldwide for Windows, Macintosh and MS-DOS, and costs US$995. This includes the cost of a full-featured LPA Prolog compiler and programming development environment, and features two well-documented classical examples: a fuzzy controller and a project risk analyser.

FLINT is also available as a versatile programming toolkit for LPA Prolog or as an extension to LPA’s popular expert system toolkit, Flex.

Logic Programming Associates, US Toll Free: 1-800-949-7567 Tel: +44 181 871 2016 Fax: +44 181 874 0449

For information about fuzzy logic, see

QC for the PowerMac

Onyx Technology today announced a free update to its popular QC stress testing tool for the Macintosh. Version 1.2 is the long awaited PowerPC native version of QC; previous versions ran emulated on PowerMacs. New optimizations made in testing code together with the native PowerPC code have resulted in performance improvements ranging from 100% to 500%.

The update also includes support for the powerful “Block Bounds Checking” and “Invalidate Free Memory” options on systems with Apple’s Modern Memory setting turned on. Previous versions of these tests were incompatible with Modern Memory and automatically disabled.

Updates are available at the Onyx ftp site.

QC is a system extension that allows programmers and test engineers to quickly isolate problems in application software and code resources that would otherwise randomly crash or hang various Macintosh configurations. These tests can be performed by non-technical personnel with little or no knowledge of Macintosh programming. Software engineers can take advantage of a custom API to achieve pinpoint control from directly within their code. QC gives developers and Quality Control personnel an extensive tool for stress testing their application software before it’s shipped.

[QC spots many bugs that extensions like Even Better Bus Error and its cousins try to catch. In response, some tool writers have stopped updating their extensions because their tools are redundant. - jtk]

Telescript Agents Can Hang Out On the Web

General Magic, Inc., announced the availability of a free pre-release version of its Telescript Active Web Tools, a tool kit for developing active, personalized services for the World Wide Web using agent technology. General Magic’s pre-release version of the Active Web Tools is expected to be followed by updated releases through the year.

The Active Web Tools feature a set of software development tools based on General Magic’s Telescript technology, an extensible, object-oriented remote programming language for creating active, agent-based network services.

“The Web today is a passive entity - it connects you to lots of information, but the burden is on users to ‘surf’ to find what they’re looking for,” said Marc Porat, chairman and chief executive officer of General Magic. “The Telescript Active Web Tools are designed to enable developers to turn the Web into an active entity where users can delegate agents to watch, find, and orchestrate tasks on their behalf - even while the user is off-line.”

General Magic’s presentation at Demo ’96, an industry conference, included a demonstration of active, personalized services created with Active Web Tools. The demonstration also showed two-way interoperability between Telescript technology and Sun’s Java, illustrating the complementary nature of the two technologies. The Telescript Active Web Tools offer support for industry standards. They may be used with most web servers supporting the Common Gateway Interface (CGI). A web browser supporting HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) can access Telescript agents running on a web site - no special client software is required. The Active Web Tools also enable agents to programmatically access and process content on remote web sites using HTTP.

More Multiprocessing From Total Impact

Total Impact announced the Total PowerSMP and Total FreedomSMP, the fastest PCI multiprocessor application accelerator solution available for Apple’s Power Macintosh PCI computer systems. The Total PowerSMP system is equipped with 1, 2 or 4 PowerPC 604 microprocessors operating at clock speeds of 100, 120, 133 and 150MHz. The board also features 512K of secondary cache and up to 1 gigabyte of user upgradable memory.

The Total PowerSMP board is controlled by Total FreedomSMP’s symmetric multiprocessing software libraries. Total FreedomSMP’s libraries interface directly with Apple’s Operating System ToolBox and allow application software to be launched on the Total PowerSMP accelerator the same way that they’re launched within the Power Macintosh itself.

Because the Total PowerSMP system does not have an operating system running directly on any of its microprocessors, any application accessing the board has the full attention of all available PowerPC 604’s on the board.

Total FreedomSMP will also ship with built-in library extensions that will work with Daystar Digital’s Genesis MP software (see MacTech 12.3 [March 1996] 46-54). These library extensions will give users of applications that have been written to take advantage of the Genesis MP system the ability to access the Total PowerSMP accelerator boards without any software modification.

Total Impact, (805) 987-8704

Heidi Roizen Joins Apple

As everyone knows now, Apple has gone through major personnel changes. Dr. Gilbert Amelio is not only the new CEO, but is also the Chairman of the Board. Dr. Amelio’s success as a turnaround artist is well documented; he turned into profitable operations both a money losing division at Rockwell and an unprofitable National Semiconductor.

Most significant to developers was the addition of Heidi Roizen, founder of T/Maker, as Vice President of Developer Relations in late January. For more details, see this month’s “Crabb’s Apple” column.

Apple Press Releases

Be There Now

Wonder what some Macintosh developers have been doing lately? You might want to check out, the Be newsgroup. You’ll watch in amazement as people talk about command shells and environment variables. The Be is so “programmer friendly” that it smells like Unix. Yikes!

Apple Supports Linux, MkLinux That Is...

If, while reading the following newsbit, some of the names are unfamiliar, you should refer to the section below titled, “You can’t tell the players without a card...”, and also check out the URLs.

Apple Computer, Inc., announced on February 5 that it is supporting a project with the Open Software Foundation (OSF) to port Linux, a freely distributed version of UNIX, to a variety of Power Macintosh products. This version of Linux operates on the OSF Mach microkernel, which will be running natively on the PowerPC microprocessor. The announcement was made at the Conference on Freely Redistributable Software held in Cambridge. A demo of an early prototype was shown as part of the announcement.

“This is part of Apple’s overall effort to embrace more open industry standards, particularly those popular in the Internet community,” said Ike Nassi, vice president of Apple system software technologies. “This software will be particularly popular with Mac users in higher education as well as the scientific research communities who have asked for our support of Linux.”

With Linux, a student or researcher will have an extremely low-cost, yet high-performance PowerPC-based UNIX system for personal use. Advanced research that requires UNIX applications will now be possible on an engineer’s personal Macintosh. [Advanced research into networked Marathon will be possible too. Academics also prefer the superior document editing tools available on the Macintosh. - jk]

Apple is supporting this one specific project with OSF, nicknamed MkLinux, which is a microkernel-based operating system that is 100% compatible with the original monolithic Linux, since it is based upon almost entirely unmodified Linux code. Because it works with the OSF Mach3 microkernel, it is trivial to port to any platforms supported by the OSF Mach3 microkernel. The Linux sources now include the Mach interface as a new machine type, but the same sources can also be used to build the original monolithic Linux.

By using the OSF Mach3 microkernel, the resulting Linux system can also take advantage of new technologies, such as SMP, MMP, and hard real-time support.

The porting group reports, on their web page, that porting from Intel to the PowerMac and getting to boot to multiuser took approximately three engineer-weeks, harnessing some of the work done on the native port of Linux to the PowerPC.

Linux for the Power Macintosh (Apple’s Site about their efforts):

Linux on the OSF Microkernel (as opposed to the vanilla monolithic Linux):

Linux for the PowerPC (porting Linux to the PowerPC):

The OpenMac Project (porting Linux and NetBSD to the Macintosh):

NetBSD (a version of BSD Unix; Linux is based heavily on BSD Unix, not on System V):

You can’t tell the players without a card...

In typical Unix fashion, the effort to port Linux, the popular free operating system, over to the Power Macintosh, the most popular PowerPC platform, has fragmented into several loosely affiliated development threads. If this continues, there will be one Unix variant per Unix progammer! In the near future, these variants will likely reunite into a single system. What follows are descriptions of various Unix distributions in rough chronological order.

AT&T - used to own Unix, and developed the System V Unix which is popular with businesses.

BSD - Berkeley Standard Distribution, a variant of Unix which departed from AT&T’s Unix. Popular with universities because it was almost free and comes with sources. The free version is named NetBSD.

Mach 3.0 - a microkernel developed at Carnegie Mellon. Variants have been developed at other sites, including the OSF.

Tenon Intersystems, MachTEN - a commercial BSD variant which runs with Macintosh System 7. It’s been around a long time and is very stable. It also uses the Mach kernel.

A/UX - remember this?

OSF - the Open Software Foundation, which invents large, complex standards. They also have their own version of Mach 3.

OSF Mach3 Microkernel - a microkernel upon which an system can be executed. This contrasts with a monolithic kernel, which loads the entire OS at boot time. There are versions of this microkernel for several microprocessors.

Linux - a kernel, drivers and applications which form a free, Unix-like system. It operates on various processors, including x86, 68K, and PowerPC processors, but not on all systems based on these processors. The Macintosh doesn’t yet have a stable version of Linux.

HURD - the GNU project’s Unix replacement. Hurd is an acronym for “Hird of Unix-Replacing Daemons”. Hird, in turn, is an acronym for “Hurd of Interfaces Representing Depth”. I mention this mainly because it’s a funny acronym. [If you’re a nird. - man]


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