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

Apple Security Update 2015-001 - For OS...
Apple Security Update 2015-001 is recommended for all users and improves the security of OS X. For detailed information about the security content of this update, please visit: http://support.apple.... Read more
Drive Genius 4.0.1 - Powerful system uti...
Drive Genius 4 gives you faster performance from your Mac while also protecting it. The award-winning and improved DrivePulse feature alerts you to hard drive issues before they become major problems... Read more
OS X Yosemite 10.10.2 - Apple's lat...
OS X Yosemite is Apple's newest operating system for Mac. An elegant design that feels entirely fresh, yet inherently familiar. The apps you use every day, enhanced with new features. And a... Read more
Apple iOS 8.1.3 - The latest version of...
The latest version of iOS can be downloaded through iTunes. Apple iOS 8 comes with big updates to apps you use every day, like Messages and Photos. A whole new way to share content with your family.... Read more
SpamSieve 2.9.19 - Robust spam filter fo...
SpamSieve is a robust spam filter for major email clients that uses powerful Bayesian spam filtering. SpamSieve understands what your spam looks like in order to block it all, but also learns what... Read more
RapidWeaver 6.0.5 - 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
Duet 1.2.2 - Use your iPad as an externa...
Duet is the first app that allows you to use your iDevice as an extra display for your Mac using the Lightning or 30-pin cable. Note: This app requires a $14.99 iOS companion app. Version 1.2.2:... Read more
Alfred 2.6 - Quick launcher for apps and...
Alfred is an award-winning productivity application for OS X. Alfred saves you time when you search for files online or on your Mac. Be more productive with hotkeys, keywords, and file actions at... Read more
1Password 5.1 - Powerful password manage...
1Password is a password manager that uniquely brings you both security and convenience. It is the only program that provides anti-phishing protection and goes beyond password management by adding Web... Read more
GarageSale 6.9.2 - Create outstanding eB...
GarageSale is a slick, full-featured client application for the eBay online auction system. Create and manage your auctions with ease. With GarageSale, you can create, edit, track, and manage... Read more

New WOTA: U-Boat Compass ‘Wets’ Your App...
New WOTA: U-Boat Compass ‘Wets’ Your Appetite for WOTA: Wolves of the Atlantic. Posted by Jessica Fisher on January 27th, 2015 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Warship Solitaire Review
Warship Solitaire Review By Nadia Oxford on January 27th, 2015 Our Rating: :: A WAR OF NUMBERSUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Warship Solitaire might lack frills and looks, but it offers some thought provoking... | Read more »
Keep Track of Your Hectic Work Schedule...
Keep Track of Your Hectic Work Schedule With Shifts Posted by Jessica Fisher on January 27th, 2015 [ permalink ] iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad | Read more »
All Star Quarterback Review
All Star Quarterback Review By Campbell Bird on January 27th, 2015 Our Rating: :: PLAY YOUR PARTUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Train your way to the Super Bowl in this free-to-play sports management game.   | Read more »
Sentinel 4: Dark Star Adds New Campaign...
Sentinel 4: Dark Star Adds New Campaign and More Posted by Ellis Spice on January 27th, 2015 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Wheel & Deal Review
Wheel & Deal Review By Tre Lawrence on January 27th, 2015 Our Rating: :: SIMPLE FUNUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad A simple arcade shooter that has a retro feel.   | Read more »
Join the NAVY in a Big New Update for WW...
Join the NAVY in a Big New Update for WW2: Sandbox. Strategy & Tactics Posted by Jessica Fisher on January 27th, 2015 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Earthworm Alchemy Review
Earthworm Alchemy Review By Campbell Bird on January 27th, 2015 Our Rating: :: FEED THE WORMUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Feed this funny looking worm and dodge bombs in this charming, free-to-play arcade game.   | Read more »
Graphic Novel App netwars – The Butterfl...
Graphic Novel App netwars – The Butterfly Attack has Received Some New Episodes Posted by Jessica Fisher on January 27th, 2015 [ permalink ] | Read more »
DataVault Password Manager Review
DataVault Password Manager Review By Jennifer Allen on January 27th, 2015 Our Rating: :: SECURE DATA STORAGEUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Store your passwords and other sensitive information safely, thanks to... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple Releases New Tranche Of OS Updates For...
Apple has released incremental bugfix and security updates for its most recent Mac and iOS versions. OS X Yosemite 10.10.2 Update Apple says this update includes the following improvements: Resolves... Read more
Samsung To Be Main Supplier Of A9 Chips For i...
Korea’s Maeil Business Newspaper reports that Samsung has beat out its chipmaking rivals, Taiwan’s Qualcomm and TSMC, as supplier of chipsets for the next generations of both its own Galaxy S6 and... Read more
Save up to $340 on iMacs with Apple Certified...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished iMacs available for up to $340 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. These are the best prices on... Read more
AppleCare Protection Plans on sale for up to...
B&H Photo has 3-Year AppleCare Warranties on sale for up to $105 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - Mac Laptops 15″ and Above: $244 $105 off MSRP - Mac Laptops 13″ and... 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
3TB AirPort Time Capsule on sale for $349, $5...
B&H Photo has 3TB AirPort Time Capsules on sale for $349 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $50 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model (except... Read more
16GB iPad Air 2 on sale for $446, save $53
Walmart has 16GB WiFi iPad Air 2s on sale for $53 off MSRP on their online store. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale prices available for online orders only, in-... Read more
Save up to $300 on a new Mac, $30 on an iPad,...
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
MasterCard Brings Contactless Payment, Apple...
MasterCard, the official card of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and the PGA TOUR are bringing the latest payment technology to the spectator experience with the introduction of contactless... Read more
Petitioning Dropbox For Mac OS X 10.4 and 10....
Last week Dropbox announced to its users that app support for Mac OS X 10.4 and 10.5 will end May 18 — disappointing news for those of us who are still getting useful service out of older PPC Macs... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
As an ambassador of the Apple brand, the ASC is accountable for driving sales performance by: Connecting with customers. Discovering customers' needs and values. Showing Read more
*Apple* Tree Children's Center is hirin...
Apple Tree Learning Center is Hiring Preschool Teachers! Phoenix Childrens Academy is a national leader in the early childhood education industry and we are currently 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
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
As an ambassador of the Apple brand, the ASC is accountable for driving sales performance by: Connecting with customers. Discovering customers' needs and values. Showing Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant- Retail Sales -...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Resellers store. The ASCs role is to grow Apple product Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.