Dec 99 Online
Volume Number: 15 (1999)
Issue Number: 12
Column Tag: MacTech Online
by Jeff Clites <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Apache XML Project
In last month's column, we covered the Apache HTTP Server and briefly touched on some other projects which fall under the umbrella of the Apache Foundation. As fate would have it, right after that article went to press, the Apache XML project was announced. The goal of this project is to bring the various XML development projects together under one roof and provide feedback to the various standards bodies from an implementation perspective, as well as to coordinate XML-related developments within other Apache projects. It currently encompasses four sub-projects, covering XML parsers, XSLT stylesheet processors, XML-based web publishing, and XSL formatting object processors. These projects are variously in C++, Java, and Perl.
The Apache XML Project
XML promises to be the Next Big Thing in information interchange, but it remains to be seen whether it will live up to its hype as a successor to HTML. From a political point of view, however, the Apache XML project is a very good sign, since it has the backing of (and source-code contributions from) several corporations, including IBM, Lotus, and Sun. Be sure to check out the press release for the full story on the project and its corporate involvement. Then, for an overview of both the promise and the hype, take a look at two CNET articles, which cover the recent announcement of the Apache XML project, and give an overview of industry response to the growing XML phenomenon.
xml.apache.org Project Press Release
Apache to create XML open-source tools
XML to "revolutionize" info exchange
From a technical standpoint, it isn't clear what direct impact these projects will have on the Macintosh platform. Mac OS X will make extensive use of XML as the format for many of its configuration files (replacing OpenStep's plist format), and consequently includes its own XML parser (based on Jim Clark's expat), so it's hard to tell how much of a need there will be for third-party parsers. On the other hand, some of the other projects could be especially interesting. FOP, for instance, processes a tree of XSL formatting objects into a PDF document; given that Mac OS X's imaging model is PDF-based, this sort of utility could be quite useful. It is also yet another point of connection between the Open Source and Macintosh communities, as it's a technology which could be useful to the platform and at the same time the platform would be an ideal development environment for it.
FOP: XSL Formatting Object processor in Java
A few months back we covered Samba, an open-source package which allows Unix-like machines (including Mac OS X Server) to act as file servers to Windows machines. At the time, I mentioned that Samba didn't really give you the ability to act as a client to Windows file servers, unless you happen to be running Linux, and I hoped that Mac developers would step up and fill this void. (The package which allows this is called smbfs, and it's essentially a Linux kernel plugin which enables you to mount SMB shares. It's actually not an official part of the Samba suite, although it is distributed with it as a convenience.) As it turns out, someone has filled this void (although they didn't get the idea from me). Sharity, a commercial product by Objective Development, allows Mac OS X Server and its brethren to act as SMB/CIFS clients, giving them access to Windows file servers. There is also Sharity-Light, a GPL version which is based on the above-mentioned Linux package, but it is no longer being developed. They are definitely worth a look to those trying to sneak their machine into a Windows-dominated setting, or to those who just want a potentially more secure alternative to NFS for their file-sharing activities.
Sharity - an SMB / CIFS Client for Unix
Be sure to look around Objective Development's site while you are there - they have a number of other nifty products. If you are using Mac OS X Server now, or when you move to Mac OS X some time in the future, you will be especially interested in LaunchBar, which is an application launcher and a replacement for OpenStep's application dock. You'll also want to check out the review on Stepwise, which gives it high marks.
LaunchBar 2.0 for Mac OS X Server
First Look: LaunchBar Beta
Last but not least, when you are done with these links be sure to wander over to the MacTech Online web pages at <www.mactech.com/online/