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....

 
AAPL
$111.78
Apple Inc.
-0.87
MSFT
$47.66
Microsoft Corpora
+0.14
GOOG
$516.35
Google Inc.
+5.25

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

NeoOffice 2014.6 - Mac-tailored, OpenOff...
NeoOffice is a complete office suite for OS X. With NeoOffice, users can view, edit, and save OpenOffice documents, PDF files, and most Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. NeoOffice 3.x... Read more
LibreOffice 4.3.5.2 - Free Open Source o...
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
CleanApp 5.0.0 Beta 5 - Application dein...
CleanApp is an application deinstaller and archiver.... Your hard drive gets fuller day by day, but do you know why? CleanApp 5 provides you with insights how to reclaim disk space. There are... Read more
Monolingual 1.6.2 - Remove unwanted OS X...
Monolingual is a program for removing unnecesary language resources from OS X, in order to reclaim several hundred megabytes of disk space. It requires a 64-bit capable Intel-based Mac and at least... Read more
NetShade 6.1 - Browse privately using an...
NetShade is an Internet security tool that conceals your IP address on the web. NetShade routes your Web connection through either a public anonymous proxy server, or one of NetShade's own dedicated... Read more
calibre 2.13 - Complete e-library manage...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital librarian... Read more
Mellel 3.3.7 - Powerful word processor w...
Mellel is the leading word processor for OS X and has been widely considered the industry standard since its inception. Mellel focuses on writers and scholars for technical writing and multilingual... Read more
ScreenFlow 5.0.1 - Create screen recordi...
Save 10% with the exclusive MacUpdate coupon code: AFMacUpdate10 Buy now! ScreenFlow is powerful, easy-to-use screencasting software for the Mac. With ScreenFlow you can record the contents of your... Read more
Simon 4.0 - Monitor changes and crashes...
Simon monitors websites and alerts you of crashes and changes. Select pages to monitor, choose your alert options, and customize your settings. Simon does the rest. Keep a watchful eye on your... Read more
BBEdit 11.0.2 - Powerful text and HTML e...
BBEdit is the leading professional HTML and text editor for the Mac. Specifically crafted in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers, this award-winning product provides a... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Make your own Tribez Figures (and More)...
Make your own Tribez Figures (and More) with Toyze Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
So Many Holiday iOS Sales Oh My Goodness...
The holiday season is in full-swing, which means a whole lot of iOS apps and games are going on sale. A bunch already have, in fact. Naturally this means we’re putting together a hand-picked list of the best discounts and sales we can find in order... | Read more »
It’s Bird vs. Bird in the New PvP Mode f...
It’s Bird vs. Bird in the New PvP Mode for Angry Birds Epic Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Telltale Games and Mojang Announce Minec...
Telltale Games and Mojang Announce Minecraft: Story Mode – A Telltale Games Series Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
WarChest and Splash Damage Annouce Their...
WarChest and Splash Damage Annouce Their New Game: Tempo Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] WarChest Ltd and Splash Damage Ltd are teaming up again to work | Read more »
BulkyPix Celebrates its 6th Anniversary...
BulkyPix Celebrates its 6th Anniversary with a Bunch of Free Games Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] BulkyPix has | Read more »
Indulge in Japanese cuisine in Cooking F...
Indulge in Japanese cuisine in Cooking Fever’s new sushi-themed update Posted by Simon Reed on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Lithuanian developer Nordcurrent has yet again updated its restaurant simulat | Read more »
Badland Daydream Level Pack Arrives to C...
Badland Daydream Level Pack Arrives to Celebrate 20 Million Downloads Posted by Ellis Spice on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Far Cry 4, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Desti...
Far Cry 4, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Destiny, and Beyond – AppSpy Takes a Look at AAA Companion Apps Posted by Rob Rich on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] These day | Read more »
A Bunch of Halfbrick Games Are Going Fre...
A Bunch of Halfbrick Games Are Going Free for the Holidays Posted by Ellis Spice on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Holiday sale: 13-inch 128GB MacBook Air for $...
 Best Buy has the 2014 13-inch 1.4GHz 128GB MacBook Air on sale for $849.99, or $150 off MSRP, on their online store. Choose free home shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Price valid... Read more
13-inch 2.6GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for...
Best Buy has lowered their price on the 2014 13″ 2.6GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro to $1149.99 on their online store for a limited time. That’s $150 off MSRP and the lowest price available for this... Read more
Kodak Returns to CES With New Consumer Produ...
Former photography colossus Kodak is returning to CES for the first time in three years where the Kodak booth (#21818 South Hall 1) will showcase a wide range of innovative, imaging-related products... Read more
Invaluable Launches New Eponymously -Named A...
Invaluable, the world’s largest online live auction marketplace, hhas announced the official launch of the Invaluable app for iPad, now available for download in the iTunes App Store. Invaluable... Read more
IDC Reveals Worldwide Mobile Enterprise Appli...
International Data Corporation (IDC) last week hosted the IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Mobile Enterprise Applications and Solutions 2015 Predictions Web conference. The session provided organizations... Read more
Hello Vino Wine App Launches “Safe Ride Home”...
Hello Vino has announced addition of a new “Get a Safe Ride Home” feature in its Food & Drink app with a direct connection to Uber, the technology platform that connects users with rides. The... Read more
DEVON-technologies Releases DEVONthink To Go...
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho based DEVON-technologies, LLC has updated DEVONthink To Go, its mobile companion to DEVONthink, to version 1.5. The update includes an iOS 8 extension, compatibility with the... Read more
The Apple Store offering free next-day shippi...
The Apple Store is now offering free next-day shipping on all in stock items if ordered before 12/23/14 at 10:00am PT. Local store pickup is also available within an hour of ordering for any in stock... Read more
It’s 1992 Again At Sony Pictures, Except For...
Techcrunch’s John Biggs interviewed a Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) employee, who quite understandably wished to remain anonymous, regarding post-hack conditions in SPE’s L.A office, explaining “... Read more
OtterBox Defender Series Case For iPad mini 3...
With their innovative Touch ID technology and ultrathin profile, the latest tranche of Apple iPads are more desirable than ever, and OtterBox has just announced the Defender Series custom-engineered... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Store Leader Program (US) - Apple, I...
…Summary Learn and grow as you explore the art of leadership at the Apple Store. You'll master our retail business inside and out through training, hands-on experience, Read more
Project Manager, *Apple* Financial Services...
**Job Summary** Apple Financial Services (AFS) offers consumers, businesses and educational institutions ways to finance Apple purchases. We work with national and Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
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.