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

OS X Server 4.1.3 - For OS X 10.10 Yosem...
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
pwSafe 4.1 - Secure password management...
pwSafe provides simple and secure password management across devices and computers. pwSafe uses iCloud to keep your password databases backed-up and synced between Macs and iOS devices. It is... Read more
Kodi 15.0.rc1 - Powerful media center to...
Kodi (was XBMC) is an award-winning free and open-source (GPL) software media player and entertainment hub that can be installed on Linux, OS X, Windows, iOS, and Android, featuring a 10-foot user... Read more
Coda 2.5.11 - One-window Web development...
Coda is a powerful Web editor that puts everything in one place. An editor. Terminal. CSS. Files. With Coda 2, we went beyond expectations. With loads of new, much-requested features, a few surprises... Read more
Bookends 12.5.7 - Reference management a...
Bookends is a full-featured bibliography/reference and information-management system for students and professionals. Access the power of Bookends directly from Mellel, Nisus Writer Pro, or MS Word (... Read more
Maya 2016 - Professional 3D modeling and...
Maya is an award-winning software and powerful, integrated 3D modeling, animation, visual effects, and rendering solution. Because Maya is based on an open architecture, all your work can be scripted... Read more
RapidWeaver 6.2.3 - Create template-base...
RapidWeaver is a next-generation Web design application to help you easily create professional-looking Web sites in minutes. No knowledge of complex code is required, RapidWeaver will take care of... Read more
MacFamilyTree 7.5.2 - Create and explore...
MacFamilyTree gives genealogy a facelift: it's modern, interactive, incredibly fast, and easy to use. We're convinced that generations of chroniclers would have loved to trade in their genealogy... Read more
Paragraphs 1.0.1 - Writing tool just for...
Paragraphs is an app just for writers. It was built for one thing and one thing only: writing. It gives you everything you need to create brilliant prose and does away with the rest. Everything in... Read more
BlueStacks App Player 0.9.21 - Run Andro...
BlueStacks App Player lets you run your Android apps fast and fullscreen on your Mac. Version 0.9.21: Note: Now requires OS X 10.8 or later running on a 64-bit Intel processor. Initial stable... Read more

Rage of Bahamut is Giving Almost All of...
The App Store isn't what it used to be back in 2012, so it's not unexpected to see some games changing their structures with the times. Now we can add Rage of Bahamut to that list with the recent announcement that the game is severely cutting back... | Read more »
Adventures of Pip (Games)
Adventures of Pip 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ** ONE WEEK ONLY — 66% OFF! *** “Adventures of Pip is a delightful little platformer full of charm, challenge and impeccable... | Read more »
Divide By Sheep - Tips, Tricks, and Stre...
Who would have thought splitting up sheep could be so involved? Anyone who’s played Divide by Sheep, that’s who! While we’re not about to give you complete solutions to everything (because that’s just cheating), we will happily give you some... | Read more »
NaturalMotion and Zynga Have Started Tea...
An official sequel to 2012's CSR Racing is officially on the way, with Zynga and NaturalMotion releasing a short teaser trailer to get everyone excited. Well, as excited as one can get from a trailer with no gameplay footage, anyway. [Read more] | Read more »
Grab a Friend and Pick up Overkill 3, Be...
Overkill 3 is a pretty enjoyable third-person shooter that was sort of begging for some online multiplayer. Fortunately the begging can stop, because its newest update has added an online co-op mode. [Read more] | Read more »
Scanner Pro's Newest Update Adds Au...
Scanner Pro is one of the most popular document scanning apps on iOS, thanks in no small part to its near-constant updates, I'm sure. Now we're up to update number six, and it adds some pretty handy new features. [Read more] | Read more »
Heroki (Games)
Heroki 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $7.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: CLEAR THE SKIES FOR A NEW HERO!The peaceful sky village of Levantia is in danger! The dastardly Dr. N. Forchin and his accomplice,... | Read more »
Wars of the Roses (Games)
Wars of the Roses 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
TapMon Battle (Games)
TapMon Battle 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: It's time to battle!Tap! Tap! Tap! Try tap a egg to hatch a Tapmon!Do a battle with another tapmons using your hatched tapmons! *... | Read more »
Alchemic Dungeons (Games)
Alchemic Dungeons 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ### Release Event! ### 2.99$->0.99$ for limited time! ### Roguelike Role Playing Game! ### Alchemic Dungeons is roguelike... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Seagate Backup Plus Drives Feature 200GB of C...
Seagate Technology plc has announced that its Backup Plus family of external storage offerings will now include 200GB of OneDrive cloud storage, a major added value, and the addition of Lyve’s photo... Read more
Canon PIXMA MG3620 Wireless Inkjet All-in-One...
Canon U.S.A., Inc. has announced the PIXMA MG3620 Wireless (1) Inkjet All-in-One (AIO) printer for high-quality photo and document printing. Built with convenience in mind for the everyday home user... Read more
July 4th Holiday Weekend 13-inch MacBook Pro...
Save up to $150 on the purchase of a new 2015 13″ Retina MacBook Pro at the following resellers this weekend. Shipping is free with each model: 2.7GHz/128GB MSRP $1299 2.7GHz/... Read more
27-inch 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale for $2149, sav...
Best Buy has the 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale for $2149.99. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale price for online orders only, in-store prices may vary. Their price is $... Read more
Apple now offering refurbished 2015 11-inch...
The Apple Store is now offering Apple Certified Refurbished 2015 11″ MacBook Airs as well as 13″ MacBook Airs (the latest models), available for up to $180 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-... Read more
15-inch 2.5GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for...
Amazon.com has the 15″ 2.5GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $2274 including free shipping. Their price is $225 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model. Read more
Finally Safe To Upgrade To Yosemite’?
The reason I’ve held back from upgrading my MacBook Air from OS X 10.9 Mavericks to 10.10 Yosemite for nearly a year isn’t just procrastination. Among other bugs reported, there have been persistent... Read more
Logo Pop Free Vector Logo Design App For OS X...
128bit Technologies has released of Logo Pop Free 1.2 for Mac OS X, a vector based, full-fledged, logo design app available exclusively on the Mac App Store for the agreeable price of absolutely free... Read more
21-inch 1.4GHz iMac on sale for $999, save $1...
B&H Photo has new 21″ 1.4GHz iMac on sale for $999 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Best Buy has the 21″ 1.4GHz iMac on sale for $999.99 on their... Read more
16GB iPad mini 3 on sale for $339, save $60
B&H Photo has the 16GB iPad mini 3 WiFi on sale for $339 including free shipping plus NY tax only. Their price is $60 off MSRP. Read more

Jobs Board

Frameworks Engineer, *Apple* Watch - Apple...
**Job Summary** Join the team that is shaping the future of software development for Apple Watch! As a software engineer on the Apple Watch Frameworks team you will Read more
Mobile Payments Counsel, *Apple* Pay (digit...
**Job Summary** Apple is looking for an atto ey to join Apple 's Legal Department to support Apple Pay. **Key Qualifications** 4+ years of relevant experience Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as the Apple business manager and influencer in a hyper-business critical Reseller's store which delivers Read more
Partner Marketing Manager, Merchant- *Apple*...
**Job Summary** The Apple Pay partner marketing team is looking for a marketing manager to develop and drive US marketing programs with our merchant partners. The right Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC) you are the link between our customers and our products. Your role is to drive the Apple business in a retail Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.