TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Apr 99 Viewpoint

Volume Number: 15 (1999)
Issue Number: 4
Column Tag: Viewpoint

Apr 99 Viewpoint

by Rich Morin

Starting this month, we're inviting the contributing editors of MacTech to introduce themselves and their areas of interest to our readership, to share their Viewpoints with us. This month we've asked Rich Morin to talk to about the developing Macintosh Open Source movement and Mac OS X. Feel free to write to Rich, with article ideas or opinions, at rdm@cfcl.com.

Nick DeMello, Editor

I was pleased, if a bit bemused, when Nick DeMello invited me to be a Contributing Editor for MacTech. I'm not a Mac OS developer; the only Mac programming I do is in MacPerl. I edited Apple's MkLinux Reference Release, but that's not even Mac OS!

After a bit of reflection, or possibly rationalization, I decided that I do have something to contribute. I have a rough understanding of the Mach microkernel's design, am quite comfortable with Unix, and am very familiar with Open Source philosophy and practices.

By introducing MacTech readers to some of these notions, I may be able to help Mac OS X (and thereby Apple) to succeed. As a Mac devotee (I'm typing this on my G3), I like this idea quite a bit. So, let's begin: What is Open Source and why should Mac developers care about it?

To qualify as Open Source, software must allow inspection, modification, and even redistribution of its source code by any and all parties. (See http://www.opensource.com for the Open Source Definition.) This is a rather heady concept for some, and rather appalling to others, but it is really nothing new.

Open Source is very popular in the Unix (Linux, etc.) community, for several related reasons. Unlike Mac OS users, most Unix users program. They may not be professionals, but they get things done. They start by entering sequences of commands in interactive sessions. Later, they may collect commands into "shell scripts", adapt them into Perl scripts, etc.

Unlike Mac OS, which provides few programming tools, most Unix distributions offer a C compiler and interpreters for several other languages. So, the tools are there and the users are comfortable in (at least some of) their use. They are also part of a culture with a long history of source-code exchange.

Unix users have always exchanged source code. Unix machines may have subtly differing APIs or even totally different architectures. Binary distribution is too inflexible; only source code can be exchanged with any reliability. Also, because AT&T distributed Unix entirely without support, source code was the only way to get (and keep) it working.

Although most commercial vendors distribute their packages in binary form, Unix "freeware" is nearly always distributed as source code. And, because many of the recipients program, a lot of volunteer development takes place. Users add features, fix bugs, and combine code in ways never imagined by the original authors. The result is an incredible fount of creativity, coupled with very rapid convergence towards bug-free implementations.

This is all very well, you may say, but what has it got to do with the Apple community? We don't have user-programmers or even tools for them to use. Our freeware and shareware is distributed in binary form and few users desire anything different.

True enough, but some changes are on the way. I run Perl and Tcl/Tk on my Mac; I could be running Python or any of several other languages. So, the tools are starting to appear. Also, Mac OS X is certain to have a full set of Unixish commands (by Apple or third parties).

More to the point, Mac OS X itself depends heavily on Open Source software. The Mach 3 microkernel forms the basis of the system, supplemented by the 4.4BSD-Lite distribution. Open Source add-ins, from Apache and Bind to Perl and Sendmail, fill out the system.

If Apple had to pay license fees on these components, could they sell the resulting system at mass-market prices? I think not. Will Apple rewrite everything, through a surfeit of NIH? This seems unlikely, though some things will certainly be revised for assorted reasons.

Finally, whom does Apple expect to buy Mac OS X? Developers will buy copies, of course, but they aren't a big enough audience to support a new operating system. Advanced Mac shops (e.g., high-end graphics firms) will also jump in, for advanced features and increased stability, but they are also a relatively small audience.

I therefore predict that Apple will cater to, and actively woo academic, research, and otherwise technical users; in short, the bastions of the Unix community. Apple may be quiet about it, but mark my words; it will be a large part of their planning.

And, when these folks start playing with Mac OS X, will they leave all of their favorite tools behind? Not very likely; in fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see Apple encouraging a few Open Source developers to do Mac OS X ports of important Open Source packages!

Let's be clear: Mac OS X is not Unix. It will have a different file system, new scheduling and I/O architectures, and more. Most commercial applications will be ported to Carbon or written for the Yellow Box; neither of these is much like conventional Unix.

Nonetheless, I predict that the next few years will see a merging of concepts between the traditional Mac and Unix communities. Mac users will start seeing more Open Source software, even if (as seems likely) most will never look at the source code.

If this is true, it would behoove Mac developers to learn a little bit about Open Source, if not Unix, per se. The best places to begin such an exploration are http://www.opensource.org, http://www.freebsd.org, and http://www.gnu.org; tell them Rich sent you...

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Duplicate Annihilator 5.7.5 - Find and d...
Duplicate Annihilator takes on the time-consuming task of comparing the images in your iPhoto library using effective algorithms to make sure that no duplicate escapes. Duplicate Annihilator... Read more
BusyContacts 1.0.2 - Fast, efficient con...
BusyContacts is a contact manager for OS X that makes creating, finding, and managing contacts faster and more efficient. It brings to contact management the same power, flexibility, and sharing... Read more
Capture One Pro 8.2.0.82 - RAW workflow...
Capture One Pro 8 is a professional RAW converter offering you ultimate image quality with accurate colors and incredible detail from more than 300 high-end cameras -- straight out of the box. It... Read more
Backblaze 4.0.0.872 - Online backup serv...
Backblaze is an online backup service designed from the ground-up for the Mac.With unlimited storage available for $5 per month, as well as a free 15-day trial, peace of mind is within reach with... Read more
Little Snitch 3.5.2 - Alerts you about o...
Little Snitch gives you control over your private outgoing data. Track background activity As soon as your computer connects to the Internet, applications often have permission to send any... Read more
Monolingual 1.6.4 - Remove unwanted OS X...
Monolingual is a program for removing unnecesary language resources from OS X, in order to reclaim several hundred megabytes of disk space. If you use your computer in only one (human) language, you... Read more
CleanApp 5.0 - Application deinstaller a...
CleanApp is an application deinstaller and archiver.... Your hard drive gets fuller day by day, but do you know why? CleanApp 5 provides you with insights how to reclaim disk space. There are... Read more
Fantastical 2.0 - Create calendar events...
Fantastical is the Mac calendar you'll actually enjoy using. Creating an event with Fantastical is quick, easy, and fun: Open Fantastical with a single click or keystroke Type in your event details... Read more
Cocktail 8.2 - General maintenance and o...
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
Direct Mail 4.0.4 - Create and send grea...
Direct Mail is an easy-to-use, fully-featured email marketing app purpose-built for OS X. It lets you create and send great looking email campaigns. Start your newsletter by selecting from a gallery... Read more

Fast & Furious: Legacy's Creati...
| Read more »
N-Fusion and 505's Ember is Totally...
| Read more »
These are All the Apple Watch Apps and G...
The Apple Watch is less than a month from hitting store shelves, and once you get your hands on it you're probably going to want some apps and games to install. Fear not! We've compiled a list of all the Apple Watch apps and games we've been able to... | Read more »
Appy to Have Known You - Lee Hamlet Look...
Being at 148Apps these past 2 years has been an awesome experience that has taught me a great deal, and working with such a great team has been a privilege. Thank you to Rob Rich, and to both Rob LeFebvre and Jeff Scott before him, for helping me... | Read more »
Hands-On With Allstar Heroes - A Promisi...
Let’s get this out of the way quickly. Allstar Heroes looks a lot like a certain other recent action RPG release, but it turns out that while it’s not yet available here, Allstar Heroes has been around for much longer than that other title. Now that... | Read more »
Macho Man and Steve Austin Join the Rank...
WWE Immortals, by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and WWE, has gotten a superstar update. You'll now have access to Macho Man Randy Savage and Steve Austin. Both characters have two different versions: Macho Man Randy Savage Renegade or Macho... | Read more »
Fearless Fantasy is Fantastic for the iF...
I actually had my first look at Fearless Fantasy last year at E3, but it was on a PC so there wasn't much for me to talk about. But now that I've been able to play with a pre-release version of the iOS build, there's quite a bit for me to talk... | Read more »
MLB Manager 2015 (Games)
MLB Manager 2015 5.0.14 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 5.0.14 (iTunes) Description: Guide your favorite MLB franchise to glory! MLB Manager 2015, officially licensed by MLB.com and based on the award-... | Read more »
Breath of Light (Games)
Breath of Light 1.0.1421 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.1421 (iTunes) Description: Hold a quiet moment. Breath of Light is a meditative and beautiful puzzle game with a hypnotic soundtrack by... | Read more »
WWE WrestleMania Tags into the App Store
Are You ready to rumble? The official WWE WrestleMania app, by World Wrestling Entertainment, is now available. Now you can get all your WrestleMania info in one place before anyone else. The app offers details on superstar signings, interactive... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro (refurbished) avai...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros available for $829, or $270 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.... Read more
Save up to $80 on iPad Air 2s, NY tax only, f...
 B&H Photo has iPad Air 2s on sale for $80 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 16GB iPad Air 2 WiFi: $469.99 $30 off - 64GB iPad Air 2 WiFi: $549.99 $50 off - 128GB iPad... Read more
iMacs on sale for up to $205 off MSRP
B&H Photo has 21″ and 27″ iMacs on sale for up to $205 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 21″ 1.4GHz iMac: $1019 $80 off - 21″ 2.7GHz iMac: $1189 $110 off - 21″ 2.9GHz... Read more
Färbe Technik Offers iPhone Battery Charge LI...
Färbe Technik, which manufactures and markets of mobile accessories for Apple, Blackberry and Samsung mobile devices, is offering tips on how to keep your iPhone charged while in the field: •... Read more
Electronic Recyclers International CEO Urges...
Citing a recent story on CNBC about concerns some security professionals have about the forthcoming Apple Watch, John Shegerian, Chairman and CEO of Electronic Recyclers International (ERI), the... Read more
Save up to $380 with Apple refurbished iMacs
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 – $2119 $... Read more
Mac minis on sale for up to $75 off, starting...
MacMall has Mac minis on sale for up to $75 off MSRP including free shipping. Their prices are the lowest available for these models from any reseller: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $459.99 $40 off - 2.6GHz Mac... Read more
College Student Deals: Additional $50 off Mac...
Take an additional $50 off all MacBooks and iMacs at Best Buy Online with their College Students Deals Savings, valid through April 11, 2015. Anyone with a valid .EDU email address can take advantage... Read more
Mac Pros on sale for up to $260 off MSRP
B&H Photo has Mac Pros on sale for up to $260 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax in NY only: - 3.7GHz 4-core Mac Pro: $2799, $200 off MSRP - 3.5GHz 6-core Mac Pro: $3719.99... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $100 o...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $999 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more

Jobs Board

DevOps Software Engineer - *Apple* Pay, iOS...
**Job Summary** Imagine what you could do here. At Apple , great ideas have a way of becoming great products, services, and customer experiences very quickly. Bring Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
Sr. Technical Services Consultant, *Apple*...
**Job Summary** Apple Professional Services (APS) has an opening for a senior technical position that contributes to Apple 's efforts for strategic and transactional Read more
Lead *Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail...
**Job Summary** Job Summary The Lead ASC is an Apple employee who serves as the Apple business manager and influencer in a hyper-business critical Reseller's store Read more
*Apple* Pay - Site Reliability Engineer - Ap...
**Job Summary** Imagine what you could do here. At Apple , great ideas have a way of becoming great products, services, and customer experiences very quickly. Bring Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.