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

Apple High Sierra 10.13 - The latest OS...
macOS High Sierra introduces new core technologies that improve the most important functions of your Mac. From rearchitecting how it stores your data to improving the efficiency of video streaming to... Read more
ScreenFlow 7.1 - Create screen recording...
ScreenFlow is powerful, easy-to-use screencasting software for the Mac. With ScreenFlow you can record the contents of your entire monitor while also capturing your video camera, microphone and your... Read more
Airmail 3.5 - Powerful, minimal email cl...
Airmail is an mail client with fast performance and intuitive interaction. Support for iCloud, MS Exchange, Gmail, Google Apps, IMAP, POP3, Yahoo!, AOL, Outlook.com, Live.com. Airmail was designed... Read more
CleanMyMac 3.9.0 - $39.95
CleanMyMac makes space for the things you love. Sporting a range of ingenious new features, CleanMyMac lets you safely and intelligently scan and clean your entire system, delete large, unused files... Read more
Numi 3.17.2 - Menu-bar calculator suppor...
Numi is a calculator that magically combines calculations with text, and allows you to freely share your computations. Numi combines text editor and calculator Support plain English. For example, '5... Read more
OmniGraffle 7.4.3 - Create diagrams, flo...
OmniGraffle helps you draw beautiful diagrams, family trees, flow charts, org charts, layouts, and (mathematically speaking) any other directed or non-directed graphs. We've had people use Graffle to... Read more
ExpanDrive 6.1.0 - Access cloud storage...
ExpanDrive builds cloud storage in every application, acts just like a USB drive plugged into your Mac. With ExpanDrive, you can securely access any remote file server directly from the Finder or... Read more
VueScan 9.5.86 - Scanner software with a...
VueScan is a scanning program that works with most high-quality flatbed and film scanners to produce scans that have excellent color fidelity and color balance. VueScan is easy to use, and has... Read more
Cocktail 11.0 - General maintenance and...
Cocktail is a general purpose utility for macOS that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get... Read more
OmniGraffle Pro 7.4.3 - Create diagrams,...
OmniGraffle Pro helps you draw beautiful diagrams, family trees, flow charts, org charts, layouts, and (mathematically speaking) any other directed or non-directed graphs. We've had people use... Read more

Morphite guide - how to explore like a p...
The much anticipated space exploration game, Morphite, has finally arrived, and we can't get enough of it. The game is essentially everything we wanted No Man's Sky to be. It's a game that puts a heavy focus on exploring foreign worlds, but the... | Read more »
The best visual novels on mobile
Narrative games have been around for ages, but only now have they been creeping into the mainstream spotlight. These games tell some of the industry's finest stories, and they break new ground in terms of gameplay and mechanics regularly. Here are... | Read more »
The best new games we played this week -...
It's pretty much been one big release after another. We were privy to a bunch of surprises this week, with a lot of games we'd been waiting for quite some time dropping unexpectedly. We hope you're free this weekend, because there is a lot for... | Read more »
Stormbound: Kingdom Wars guide - how to...
Stormbound: Kingdom Wars is an excellent new RTS turned card battler out now on iOS and Android. Lovers of strategy will get a lot of enjoyment out of Stormbound's chess-like mechanics, and it's cardbased units are perfect for anyone who loves the... | Read more »
The best AR apps and games on iOS right...
iOS 11 has officially launched, and with it comes Apple's ARKit, a helpful framework that makes it easier than ever for developers to create mobile AR experiences. To celebrate the occassion, we're featuring some of the best AR apps and games on... | Read more »
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of...
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice 1.00.00 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.00.00 (iTunes) Description: ************************************************※IMPORTANT※・Please read the “When... | Read more »
Kpressor (Utilities)
Kpressor 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Utilities Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: The ultimate ZIP compression application for iPhone and iPad. - Full integration of iOS 11 with support for multitasking.-... | Read more »
Find out how you can save £35 and win a...
Nothing raises excitement like a good competition, and we’re thrilled to announce our latest contest. We’ll be sending one lucky reader and a friend to the Summoners War World Arena Championship at Le Comedia in Paris on October 7th. It’s the... | Read more »
Another Lost Phone: Laura's Story...
Another Lost Phone: Laura's Story 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Another Lost Phone is a game about exploring the social life of a young woman whose phone you have just... | Read more »
The Witness (Games)
The Witness 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $9.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: You wake up, alone, on a strange island full of puzzles that will challenge and surprise you. You don't remember who you are, and... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Snag a Certified Refurbished Apple Pencil for...
Apple has Certified Refurbished Apple Pencils available for $85 including free shipping. Their price is $14 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for a Pencil. Read more
12-inch 64GB iPad Pro on sale for $749, save...
Adorama has 12″ 64GB iPad Pros on sale today for $749 including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only. Their price is $50 off MSRP. Read more
Apple Certified Refurbished iPad minis availa...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 128GB iPad minis available today for $339 including free shipping. Apple’s standard one-year warranty is included. Their price is $60 off MSRP. Read more
12-inch 1.2GHz Retina MacBook Pros on sale fo...
B&H Photo has 2017 12″ 1.2GHz Retina MacBooks on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax in NY & NJ only: 12″ 1.2GHz Space Gray MacBook: $1199 $100 off MSRP 12... Read more
Sunday sale: 13-inch 3.1GHz MacBook Pros for...
Amazon has 2017 13″ 3.1GHz MacBook Pros on sale today for up to $150 off MSRP, each including free shipping: – 13″ 3.1GHz/256GB Space Gray MacBook Pro (MPXV2LL/A): $1649.99 $150 off MSRP – 13″ 3.1GHz... Read more
Looking for a 2017 12″ Retina MacBook? Save $...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2017 12″ Retina MacBooks available for $200-$240 off the cost of new models. Apple will include a standard one-year warranty with each MacBook, and shipping is free.... Read more
Apple Offering Up To $455 Credit Toward iPhon...
iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are now available at the Apple Store, and you can receive up to $375 credit toward a new iPhone purchase when you trade in your eligible smartphone. Photo Courtesy Apple Just... Read more
AnyTrans Offers iOS Users Three Ways For Movi...
iMobie Inc. today announceed AnyTrans v6.0.1, which now can help iOS users move all data to iPhone 8/8 Plus seamlessly. The software is available both on Mac and Windows and fully able to move all... Read more
Snag a 13-inch 2.3GHz MacBook Pro for $100 of...
B&H Photo has 2017 13″ 2.3GHz MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for $100 off MSRP, each including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: – 13-inch 2.3GHz/128GB Space Gray MacBook... Read more
Verizon offers new iPhone 8 for $100-$300 off...
Verizon is offering the new iPhone 8 for up to $300 off MSRP with an eligible trade-in: • $300 off: iPhone 6S/6S Plus/7/7 Plus, Google Pixel XL, LG G6, Moto Z2 Force, Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 edge/S8/S8... Read more

Jobs Board

Development Operations and Site Reliability E...
Development Operations and Site Reliability Engineer, Apple Payment Gateway Job Number: 57572631 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Jul. 27, 2017 Read more
Data Engineer - *Apple* Media Products - Ap...
Job Summary Apple is seeking a highly skilled data engineer to join the Data Engineering team within Apple Media Products. AMP (home to Apple Music, App Read more
Development Operations and Site Reliability E...
Development Operations and Site Reliability Engineer, Apple Payment Gateway Job Number: 57572631 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Jul. 27, 2017 Read more
Development Operations and Site Reliability E...
Development Operations and Site Reliability Engineer, Apple Payment Gateway Job Number: 57572631 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Jul. 27, 2017 Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
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.