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...

 
AAPL
$105.03
Apple Inc.
+0.20
MSFT
$46.01
Microsoft Corpora
+0.99
GOOG
$538.97
Google Inc.
-5.01

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

OS X Server 4.0 - For OS X 10.10 Yosemit...
Designed for OS X and iOS devices, OS X Server makes it easy to share files, schedule meetings, synchronize contacts, develop software, host your own website, publish wikis, configure Mac, iPhone,... Read more
TotalFinder 1.6.12 - Adds tabs, hotkeys,...
TotalFinder is a universally acclaimed navigational companion for your Mac. Enhance your Mac's Finder with features so smart and convenient, you won't believe you ever lived without them. Tab-based... Read more
BusyCal 2.6.3 - Powerful calendar app wi...
BusyCal is an award-winning desktop calendar that combines personal productivity features for individuals with powerful calendar sharing capabilities for families and workgroups. BusyCal's unique... Read more
calibre 2.7 - Complete e-library managem...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital... Read more
Skitch 2.7.3 - Take screenshots, annotat...
With Skitch, taking, annotating, and sharing screenshots or images is as fun as it is simple.Communicate and collaborate with images using Skitch and its intuitive, engaging drawing and annotating... Read more
Delicious Library 3.3.2 - Import, browse...
Delicious Library allows you to import, browse, and share all your books, movies, music, and video games with Delicious Library. Run your very own library from your home or office using our... Read more
Art Text 2.4.8 - Create high quality hea...
Art Text is an OS X application for creating high quality textual graphics, headings, logos, icons, Web site elements, and buttons. Thanks to multi-layer support, creating complex graphics is no... Read more
Live Interior 3D Pro 2.9.6 - Powerful an...
Live Interior 3D Pro is a powerful yet very intuitive interior designing application. View Video Tutorials It has every feature of Live Interior 3D Standard, plus some exclusive ones: Create multi... Read more
The Hit List 1.1.7 - Advanced reminder a...
The Hit List manages the daily chaos of your modern life. It's easy to learn - it's as easy as making lists. And it's powerful enough to let you plan, then forget, then act when the time is right.... Read more
jAlbum Pro 12.2.4 - Organize your digita...
jAlbum Pro has all the features you love in jAlbum, but comes with a commercial license. With jAlbum, you can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code!... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Rami Ismail Opens Up distribute​() for D...
Rami Ismail Opens Up distribute​() for Developers Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 24th, 2014 [ permalink ] Rami Ismail, Chief Executive of Business and Development at indie game studio | Read more »
Great Hitman GO Goes on Sale and Gets Ne...
Great Hitman GO Goes on Sale and Gets New Update – Say That Three Times Fast Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 24th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Rival Stars Basketball Review
Rival Stars Basketball Review By Jennifer Allen on October 24th, 2014 Our Rating: :: RESTRICTIVE BUT FUNUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Rival Stars Basketball is a fun mixture of basketball and card collecting but its... | Read more »
Rubicon Development Makes Over a Dozen o...
Rubicon Development Makes Over a Dozen of Their Games Free For This Weekend Only Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 24th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
I Am Dolphin Review
I Am Dolphin Review By Jennifer Allen on October 24th, 2014 Our Rating: :: NEARLY FIN-TASTICUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Swim around and eat nearly everything that moves in I Am Dolphin, a fun Ecco-ish kind of game... | Read more »
nPlayer looks to be the ultimate choice...
Developed by Newin Inc, nPlayer may seem like your standard video player – but is aiming to be the best in its field by providing high quality video play performance and support for a huge number of video formats and codecs. User reviews include... | Read more »
Fighting Fantasy: Caverns of the Snow Wi...
Fighting Fantasy: Caverns of the Snow Witch Review By Jennifer Allen on October 24th, 2014 Our Rating: :: CLASSY STORYTELLINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Fighting Fantasy: Caverns of the Snow Witch is a sterling... | Read more »
A Few Days Left (Games)
A Few Days Left 1.01 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.01 (iTunes) Description: Screenshots are in compliance to App Store's 4+ age rating! Please see App Preview for real game play! **Important: Make... | Read more »
Toca Boo (Education)
Toca Boo 1.0.2 Device: iOS Universal Category: Education Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.2 (iTunes) Description: BOO! Did I scare you!? My name is Bonnie and my family loves to spook! Do you want to scare them back? Follow me and I'll... | Read more »
Intuon (Games)
Intuon 1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: Join the battle with your intuition in a new hardcore game Intuon! How well do you trust your intuition? Can you find a needle in a... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Nimbus Note Cross=Platform Notes Utility
Nimbus Note will make sure you never forget or lose your valuable data again. Create and edit notes, save web pages, screenshots and any other type of data – and share it all with your friends and... Read more
NewerTech’s Snuglet Makes MagSafe 2 Power Con...
NewerTech has introduced the Snuglet, a precision-manufactured ring designed to sit inside your MagSafe 2 connector port, providing a more snug fit to prevent your power cable from unintentional... Read more
Apple Planning To Sacrifice Gross Margins To...
Digitimes Research’s Jim Hsiao says its analysts believe Apple is planning to sacrifice its gross margins to save its tablet business, which has recently fallen into decline. They project that Apple’... Read more
Who’s On Now? – First Instant-Connect Search...
It’s nighttime and your car has broken down on the side of the highway. You need a tow truck right away, so you open an app on your iPhone, search for the closest tow truck and send an instant... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $949,...
Best Buy has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro available for $949.99 on their online store. Choose free shipping or free instant local store pickup (if available). Their price is $150 off MSRP. Price is... Read more
Save up to $125 on Retina MacBook Pros
B&H Photo has the new 2014 13″ and 15″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $125 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. They’ll also include free copies of Parallels... Read more
Apple refurbished Time Capsules available sta...
The Apple Store has certified refurbished Time Capsules available for up to $60 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each Time Capsule, and shipping is free: - 2TB Time Capsule: $255... Read more
Textilus New Word, Notes and PDF Processor fo...
Textilus is new word-crunching, notes, and PDF processor designed exclusively for the iPad. I haven’t had time to thoroughly check it out yet, but it looks great and early reviews are positive.... Read more
WD My Passport Pro Bus-Powered Thunderbolt RA...
WD’s My Passport Pro RAID solution is powered by an integrated Thunderbolt cable for true portability and speeds as high as 233 MB/s. HighlightsOverviewSpecifications Transfer, Back Up And Edit In... Read more
Save with Best Buy’s College Student Deals
Take an additional $50 off all MacBooks and iMacs at Best Buy Online with their College Students Deals Savings, valid through November 1st. Anyone with a valid .EDU email address can take advantage... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple Inc. (U...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions Read more
Senior Event Manager, *Apple* Retail Market...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global event strategy. Delivering an overarching brand story; in-store, Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
Project Manager / Business Analyst, WW *Appl...
…a senior project manager / business analyst to work within our Worldwide Apple Fulfillment Operations and the Business Process Re-engineering team. This role will work 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.