TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Dec 00 Online Volume Number: 16 (2000)
Issue Number: 12
Column Tag: MacTech Online

The New Basics

by Jeff Clites <online@mactech.com>

What Mac user out there doesn't remember Apple's famous 1984 commercial? It only aired once, during the 1984 Super Bowl, but it won numerous awards and is held by some to be the greatest commercial of all times. It was directed by Ridley Scott, director of Blade Runner and more recently Gladiator. I still get chills every time I see it. The interesting thing to remember is that when that commercial came out, Big Brother was IBM — they were the competition, the bad guys, the enemy. Now, the villain might be Microsoft (if anyone), and IBM is, well, just there. They seem like neither enemy nor ally, just more of a quiet neighbor — you know they're around, but you're not sure what they do. They've reinvented themselves, and there's almost no overlap between their target market and Apple's. But the landscape of computing is changing, and there's a party going on. It's more of a Rave than a party, actually — there's all kinds of strange stuff brewing, and lot of people are going but nobody's really talking about it during the day. The theme of the party is Unix, in a way, but it's more than that. Suddenly, Unix underlies every important operating system out there — except Windows. It's the basis of Mac OS X, Linux, BSD, and all of the heavyweight server software by IBM, Sun, SGI, and HP, and even smaller niche OSes like QNX Neutrino. This doesn't mean that we are all going to band together to fight Microsoft, because the new world isn't about fighting with Microsoft. It isn't about something so negative. The real point is that there's an incredible landscape wide open for the cross pollination of technologies, and this exchange isn't dependent on explicit alliances, but rather on standards — on just having things in common. It's an unconscious union. This is important — it means that a flow of ideas will happen even in the face of competition, because company A is better off if its software and hardware can talk to company B's than if it can't, and vice versa. And it's just icing on the cake when they are enlightened enough to share implementations rather than just specifications — to realize that it's to everyone's advantage to just share the code rather than waiting around for everyone else to reimplement it. This is what the Open Source movement is all about, from a purely practical perspective at least. This isn't a completely new thing of course, but it's new that the Macintosh will be fully a part of this standards-based, Unix-centered community, and it's new that this community will include just about everyone — and this is going to continue to push us forward as a whole.

So what does this all mean to the Macintosh developer? At the most obvious and literal level, it means that there's a bunch of software out there which will suddenly run on Mac OS X with little or no modification, ranging from applications to frameworks to libraries to individual routines — things directly useful to the consumer, to the system administrator, or to the developer. But more fundamentally, it means that there's a new set of basics out there — a new range of technologies that every developer needs to know about. And really, it won't be enough to just know that these technologies exist — developers will have to know how to use them as a matter of course. And these New Basics are new in two ways: there are technologies which will be new to Macintosh developers (and they may be new to everyone), and it's new that the essential basics are cross-platform — they're the same for almost all developers, independent of operating system or type of development. So this month, we're going to touch on the first of these, XML, and point you to my picks for the essential references. In the coming months, I hope to cover the rest of the New Basics. And when we're done, pass the list on to your Unix and Windows friends — they'll need them too.

By the way, you may be wondering why I singled out IBM to start off the discussion. They came to mind because their developerWorks site gives great coverage of the New Basics, and I'm constantly lead back to it. IBM has gone from a threat to a resource. Visit their site frequently to find ongoing information about important technologies.

XML

The first New Basic is XML. As a technology, it has been hyped, over-hyped, and re-over-hyped in the press. It doesn't solve every problem under the sun, as some have implied, but it has done one important thing: it has gotten everyone thinking about information formats, and given us a common starting point to flock around when designing new ways to store and interchange data, which makes it more likely that the formats we settle upon will be sensible and reasonably easy to process by anyone who wants to. For better or worse, it is being used just about everywhere possible, and this trend is only going to grow for the foreseeable future. Developers will have to be comfortable using it when reading and writing documents and when writing applications which talk to other applications, either locally or over the internet (which includes almost all applications being written today). So here are my picks for the essentials: First, the annotated XML specification on XML.com. It's the specification itself, with additional notes added by Tim Bray, on of its authors. It isn't what you'd want to use to learn about XML for the very first time, but it's very handy to have around when you need the final word on whether some piece of syntax is legitimate, and it can be quicker to just go to the source rather than searching for someone else's explanation. But when you're learning about XML as a developer, you're ultimately more interested in how than what — you need to process XML, and the specification doesn't cover strategies for this. The two best resources I've found are books. Professional XML (ISBN: 1861003110) weighs in at over 1000 pages, and it gives coverage to almost every major technology surrounding XML. Some of these technologies have evolved since the book was published almost a year ago, but it's still relevant to answer the "what's that?" and subsequent "okay, now how do I use that?" questions. A newer reference is Essential XML: Beyond Markup (ISBN: 0201709147). It covers a more focussed range of topics, but as a result it gives thorough coverage of all of the areas on which new technologies are likely to be built — methods for processing, specifying, navigating, linking, and transforming XML documents. And this book is refreshing and unique in two ways: For one, it focuses on the XML Information Set (Infoset), which gives the abstract definition of XML, independent of its syntactic detail. The Infoset almost never gets coverage elsewhere, but it's really the most important specification, and it makes explicit the notion that what we normally think of as XML is just one way to write it down on paper, just one syntax out of many possibilities for serializing XML data. In the push for standards, this distinction is being overlooked, and there's an undue focus on the syntax of XML over its concepts — people are forgetting that the angle brackets aren't what's important, and an alternative syntax might be a good thing to have around. The other refreshing thing about Essential XML is that it explicitly acknowledges that XML has been over-hyped, and in fact the authors wrote it to help them sort out what really is important to the programmer.

Finally, my last essential reference for XML is the xmlhack web site. It's a news portal site, which gives summaries and links to relevant new bits of XML information on the internet. Just glancing at it from time to time will give you a feel for what areas are important and evolving, in addition to giving you pointers to new developments in technologies of specific interest. (I should mention too that these pointers will sometimes lead you to the XML.com site mentioned above, which is actually a great place to look for in-depth articles.)

So, that's it for the first of the New Basics. Remember to check back in the coming months, when I hope to cover more of them. Until then, I'll keep you in suspense about the rest of the technologies on my essentials list....

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Logic Pro X 10.1.1 - Music creation and...
Apple Logic Pro X is the most advanced version of Logic ever. Sophisticated new tools for professional songwriting, editing, and mixing are built around a modern interface that's designed to get... Read more
VLC Media Player 2.2.0 - Popular multime...
VLC Media Player is a highly portable multimedia player for various audio and video formats (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, MP3, OGG, ...) as well as DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols. It... Read more
Sound Studio 4.7.8 - Robust audio record...
Sound Studio lets you easily record and professionally edit audio on your Mac. Easily rip vinyls and digitize cassette tapes, or record lectures and voice memos. Prepare for live shows with live... Read more
LibreOffice 4.4.1.2 - Free, open-source...
LibreOffice is an office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing tool) compatible with other major office suites. The Document Foundation is coordinating development and... Read more
Freeway Pro 7.0.3 - Drag-and-drop Web de...
Freeway Pro lets you build websites with speed and precision... without writing a line of code! With its user-oriented drag-and-drop interface, Freeway Pro helps you piece together the website of... Read more
Cloud 3.3.0 - File sharing from your men...
Cloud is simple file sharing for the Mac. Drag a file from your Mac to the CloudApp icon in the menubar and we take care of the rest. A link to the file will automatically be copied to your clipboard... Read more
Cyberduck 4.6.5 - FTP and SFTP browser....
Cyberduck is a robust FTP/FTP-TLS/SFTP browser for the Mac whose lack of visual clutter and cleverly intuitive features make it easy to use. Support for external editors and system technologies such... Read more
Firefox 36.0 - Fast, safe Web browser. (...
Firefox for Mac offers a fast, safe Web browsing experience. Browse quickly, securely, and effortlessly. With its industry-leading features, Firefox is the choice of Web development professionals and... Read more
Thunderbird 31.5.0 - Email client from M...
As of July 2012, Thunderbird has transitioned to a new governance model, with new features being developed by the broader free software and open source community, and security fixes and improvements... Read more
VOX 2.4 - Music player that supports man...
VoxIt just sounds better! The beauty is in its simplicity, yet behind the minimal exterior lies a powerful music player with a ton of features & support for all audio formats you should ever need... Read more

Get The Whole Story – Lone Wolf Complete...
Get The Whole Story – Lone Wolf Complete is Now Available and On Sale Posted by Jessica Fisher on February 27th, 2015 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Who Wore it Best? The Counting Dead vs....
Like it or not, the “clicker” genre, popularized by cute distractions like Candy Box and Cookie Clicker, seems like it’s here to stay. So Who Wore it Best? takes a look at two recent examples: The Counting Dead and AdVenture Capitalist. | Read more »
Card Crawl, the Mini Deck Building Game,...
Card Crawl, the Mini Deck Building Game, is Coming Soon Posted by Jessica Fisher on February 27th, 2015 [ permalink ] Tinytouchtales and Mexer have announced their new game, | Read more »
Witness an all new puzzle mechanic in Bl...
Well, BlastBall MAX is not one of those games and is bucking trends such as timers, elements of randomness, and tacked-on mechanics in favor of pure puzzle gameplay. When you first boot up the game you’ll see a grid made up of squares that are each... | Read more »
This Princess Has a Dragon and She isn’t...
This Princess Has a Dragon and She isn’t Afraid to Useit. | Read more »
Mecha Showdown Review
Mecha Showdown Review By Lee Hamlet on February 27th, 2015 Our Rating: :: IN A SPINUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Mecha Showdown replaces traditional buttons with a slot machine mechanic in this robot fighting game,... | Read more »
Reliance Games and Dreamworks Unveil Rea...
Reliance Games and Dreamworks Unveil Real Steel Champions Posted by Ellis Spice on February 27th, 2015 [ permalink ] Reliance Games and Dreamworks have announced that a third game in | Read more »
Sum Idea Review
Sum Idea Review By Jennifer Allen on February 27th, 2015 Our Rating: :: TAXING NUMBERSUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Sum Idea is a fairly charming but taxing puzzle game.   | Read more »
A New Badland Update Brings Daydream Lev...
A New Badland Update Brings Daydream Levels to Co-Op Posted by Ellis Spice on February 27th, 2015 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Slashing Demons Review
Slashing Demons Review By Lee Hamlet on February 27th, 2015 Our Rating: :: IT'S A LONG WAY TO THE TOPUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Slashing Demons lacks the depth or scope to take it beyond the point of being just... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple CEO Tim Cook to Deliver 2015 George Was...
Apple CEO Tim Cook will deliver the George Washington University’s Commencement address to GWU grads on May 17, at which time he will also be awarded an honorary doctorate of public service from the... Read more
Apple restocks refurbished Mac minis for up t...
The Apple Store has restocked Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 Mac minis, with models available starting at $419. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each mini, and shipping is free: - 1.4GHz... Read more
Save up to $50 on iPad Air 2s, NY tax only, f...
 B&H Photo has iPad Air 2s on sale for $50 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 $50 off - 128GB iPad Air 2... Read more
16GB iPad Air 2 on sale for $447, save $52
Walmart has the 16GB iPad Air 2 WiFi on sale for $446.99 on their online store for a limited time. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale price for online orders only,... 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: $1029 $70 off - 21″ 2.7GHz iMac: $1199 $100 off - 21″ 2.9GHz... Read more
Apple Takes 89 Percent Share of Global Smartp...
According to the latest research from Strategy Analytics, global smartphone operating profit reached US$21 billion in Q4 2014. The Android operating system captured a record-low 11 percent global... Read more
New Travel Health App “My Travel Health” iOS...
Rochester, Minnesota based Travel Health and Wellness LLC has announced that its new iOS app help safeguard the user’s health when traveling abroad — “My Travel Health” is now available on the Apple... Read more
Sale! MacBook Airs for up to $115 off MSRP
B&H Photo has MacBook Airs on sale for up to $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 11″ 128GB MacBook Air: $799 100 off MSRP - 11″ 256GB MacBook Air: $999 $100... Read more
15-inch 2.0GHz Retina MacBook Pro (refurbishe...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished previous-generation 15″ 2.0GHz Retina MacBook Pros available for $1489 including free shipping plus Apple’s standard one-year warranty. Their price is... Read more
Wither The iPad mini? End Of The Road Imminen...
AppleDailyReport’s Dennis Sellers predicts that the iPad mini is going to be left to wither on the vine, as it were, and then just allowed to fade away — a casualty of the IPhone 6 Plus and other... Read more

Jobs Board

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
Event Director, *Apple* Retail Marketing -...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global engagement strategy and team. Delivering an overarching brand 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
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**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
*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.