TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Apr 01 Viewpoint Volume Number: 17 (2001)
Issue Number: 4
Column Tag: Viewpoint

Viewpoint

By Rich Morin

In this month's Viewpoint, Rich Morin revisits some themes that he discussed in our first Viewpoint, two years ago. Fortunately, Apple has now released Mac OS X, so much of what used to be speculation is now reality.

I am an unapologetic fan of both Mac OS and Unix. My desktop system (cerberus) is a three-headed G3, running Mac OS. A FreeBSD server sits downstairs, providing support for email, ftp, telnet, etc. The Mac provides a pleasant user interface and a fine set of "productivity tools"; the server gives me a reliable platform for my Unix-based programming projects.

Although I find this to be a very workable combination, it can prove awkward on occasion. The FreeBSD and Mac OS environments are not tightly coupled, so moving information between them can be a nuisance. Also, Mac OS apps have a tendency to use undocumented, proprietary file formats. The idea of an integrated system, based on both Mac OS and Unix, is therefore quite appealing to me.

More to the point, I once had such a system. A/UX, which ran on the Mac II and follow-on machines (e.g., Quadras), was a very promising blend of Mac OS and Unix. Unfortunately, Apple never gave the product any real marketing support, so it never built a large customer base. Nonetheless, it was a useful and interesting "proof of concept", solving some hard problems in an elegant fashion and offering some real innovations.

A decade later, hardware advances have given us Macs that are a thousand times faster than a Mac II, disk drives that are a thousand times larger, etc. This computing power has allowed a number of "hideously inefficient" software innovations (e.g., Interface Builder, Java, OpenGL, XML) to become practical. Bringing all of this together, Apple is set to try again, in a much more splendid fashion. Apple's engineers have managed to combine great engineering with a very stylish and appealing appearance. I think they are poised to shake up the industry.

Nonetheless, Apple faces some real problems in presenting this mixture to the world. They want it to be accepted as "the next generation of Mac OS" by their users and developers. If they allow the Unix infrastructure to show through, they may scare away their traditional user base. Even talking up the Unixish benefits of the product (e.g., stability, performance, industry standard interfaces) may work against the aim of easy acceptance by their current users and developers.

On the other hand, these same Unixish aspects are critical to bringing in users and developers from Linux, Solaris, etc. Two years ago, I dared to 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." Apple has, in fact, been so quiet about Unix that it might as well have disappeared from their plans, entirely. They also made some discouraging decisions, such as killing off any possibility of case-sensitivity from HFS+.

On the other hand, a few positive indications have also surfaced. For one thing, Apple opted to keep UFS around, providing case-sensitive file names for situations that really need them. Then, at WWDC, Steve Jobs said that Mac OS X used a "Linux-like" kernel. At MacWorld, Apple actually used the "U-word" on the large banner that sat atop their pavilion. Finally, and most usefully, Apple made its developer tools available to Mac OS X Beta users, without demanding a stiff entry fee that might have discouraged casual developers.

None of these indications prepared me, however, for Apple's recent moves. Making the Unix command line (and a full suite of commands) available to all users is really a bold move for a company that preaches (and practices) extreme simplicity in user interfaces. Shipping a developer CD-ROM in the Mac OS X distribution is even more radical; what do they think the typical Mac OS user is going to do with Interface Builder?

Well, Joe and Sally Sikspak may not want to load the developer disc, but their son or daughter may. The BSD command set found in Mac OS X is almost indistinguishable from that of the Linux machines the kids have been using, so they'll find the basic tool set quite comfortable. In addition, however, they will be able to try out Interface Builder (a real step up from hand-coding X11 calls), Project Builder, and Apple's other innovations. In short, kids who have been hacking on Linux systems for years should find Mac OS X to be a real treat!

If Joe or Sally happens to be an engineer, the kids may have some competition for time on the machine. But then, Power Macs are cheap enough that each member of the family may have one. They are also cheap enough that Joe or Sally may decide to replace the Sun or SGI box on their desk with a G4 cube. Apple may claim that it isn't in the workstation business, that that won't keep people from buying Macs and using them as workstations!

In any case, it appears that Apple is finally ready to acknowledge the value that the Unix user and development community (formal and informal) has to offer. By making powerful development tools available to all users, they hope to entice all sorts of Unix aficionados to consider Mac OS X as a real platform. If they succeed in their effort, the results will bring some real changes to the Mac OS developer community.

Traditionally, Macintosh developers have constituted a vanishingly small percentage of the overall community. Let's say that there are 24 million Apple users. MacTech, the technical publication for developers, has a circulation of something like 20,000 - less than of the entire user community. These are generally the more serious developers in the community. Even if we expand the definition of "developer" to be as broad as possible, we only get a total of 150,000 developers (still less than 1% of the Mac community).

Now, let's look at the Unix community (including Linux, *BSD, Solaris, etc). I don't know the total size of this community (nobody does, actually :-), but it's clearly in the millions and quite possibly in the tens of millions. Now, how many of these folks are "developers"? Well, that's a hard question, because the definition is a lot fuzzier than is is in the Mac community.

I would guess that at least half of the Unix community (i.e., users, system administrators, programmers) have written some shell or Perl scripts. I would not be surprised to learn that the majority of Unix users have written and compiled a few C programs. Just using the command line, which essentially all Unix users do, is in fact closer to programming than most Mac users ever come. In short, it's a very different user community.

Capturing a million or so of these users for the Mac could be a real coup for Apple. The raw numbers aren't that impressive; a million additional users would only add about 4% to Apple's user base. Most of these folks would qualify, however, as potential Mac OS X developers. They might be scientists, engineers, students, or hobbyists, but many of them are in a position to create new software (and retrofit old software) for the platform.

Although existing Mac OS developers could view this as unwanted competition, I think this would be misguided. Instead, I hope that the current band of developers will recognize the newcomers as a source of cross-fertilization and useful lore. Unix is, after all, an enormous, decades-old, distributed laboratory for computer science research. It would be very surprising if the old-line Unix hackers didn't have some interesting tricks to show the Mac OS developers.

Also, the Mac community has been largely unaffected by the "Free Software" and "Open Source" movements. Freeware, in Mac parlance, is proprietary, binary-only software which is distributed at no charge. This kind of distribution is almost unknown in Unix circles, where "free software" always allows inspection, modification, and redistribution of the source code. An influx of Unix-style free software might well change the thinking of many Mac OS users and developers.

By the same token, Mac OS developers have a great deal to show (and tell) the newbies. Mac OS X may change some things about the UI, but a lot of the principles of Mac interface design will carry right through into the new system. More to the point, if we want Aqua to avoid the anarchic state of X11 applications, some advice and counsel will be quite necessary!

In short, it's a win-win situation. We all get to play with some really nifty development tools, on some really terrific hardware. We also get to try out thousands (literally!) of Open Source programs, either under their original command-line and/or X11 user interfaces or with new, Aqua-based front ends.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

TextSoap 8.3.2 - Automate tedious text d...
TextSoap can automatically remove unwanted characters, fix up messed up carriage returns, and do pretty much anything else that we can think of to text. Save time and effort. Be more productive. Stop... Read more
Apple Remote Desktop 3.9 - Remotely cont...
Apple Remote Desktop is the best way to manage the Mac computers on your network. Distribute software, provide real-time online help to end users, create detailed software and hardware reports, and... Read more
Paragraphs 1.1.4 - Writing tool just for...
Paragraphs is an app just for writers. It was built for one thing and one thing only: writing. It gives you everything you need to create brilliant prose and does away with the rest. Features... Read more
Amazon Chime 4.0.5528 - Amazon-based com...
Amazon Chime is a communications service that transforms online meetings with a secure, easy-to-use application that you can trust. Amazon Chime works seamlessly across your devices so that you can... Read more
Apple Final Cut Pro X 10.3.2 - Professio...
Apple Final Cut Pro X is a professional video editing solution.Completely redesigned from the ground up, Final Cut Pro adds extraordinary speed, quality, and flexibility to every part of the post-... Read more
ForkLift 3.0 - Powerful file manager: FT...
ForkLift is a powerful file manager and ferociously fast FTP client clothed in a clean and versatile UI that offers the combination of absolute simplicity and raw power expected from a well-executed... Read more
VueScan 9.5.70 - 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
SoftRAID 5.5.6 - High-quality RAID manag...
SoftRAID allows you to create and manage disk arrays to increase performance and reliability. SoftRAID allows the user to create and manage RAID 4 and 5 volumes, RAID 1+0, and RAID 1 (Mirror) and... Read more
Sparkle 2.1.0 - $79.99
Sparkle will change your mind if you thought building websites wasn't for you. Sparkle is the intuitive site builder that lets you create sites for your online portfolio, team or band pages, or... Read more
Logic Pro X 10.3.1 - Music creation and...
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 creative... Read more

Blasty Bubs is a colorful Pinball and Br...
QuickByte Games has another arcade treat in the works -- this time it's a mishmash of brick breaking and Pinball mechanics. It's called Blasty Bubs, and it's a top down brickbreaker that has you slinging balls around a board. [Read more] | Read more »
Corsola and Heracross are the new region...
Generation 2 finally launched in Pokémon GO, unleashing a brand new batch of Pokémon into the wild. Even before the update went live people were speculating on how to catch elusive Pokémon like the legendary "dogs", Unknown, and whether or not... | Read more »
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (Games)
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: An epic adventure through a mysterious mountain filled with monsters, magic and mayhem! “...it looks downright... | Read more »
Fantasy MMORPG MU Origin’s receives a hu...
Developer Webzen are looking to take their highly popular fantasy battler MU Origin to the next level this month, with its most ambitious overhaul yet. The latest update introduces the long sought after Server Arena, new treasure dungeons, and much... | Read more »
RPG Djinn Caster (Games)
RPG Djinn Caster 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: SPECIAL PRICE 38% OFF(USD 7.99 -> USD 4.99)!!!A Fantasy Action RPG of far foreign lands! Summon the Djinns and rise to... | Read more »
Alto's Odyssey gets its first trail...
There's finally video evidence of Alto's Odyssey, the follow up to the 2015 App Store hit, Alto's Adventure. It looks just as soothing and atmospheric as Alto's last outing, but this time players will be journeying to the desert. Whereas Alto's... | Read more »
Last week on Pocket Gamer
What’s going on in the wider world of portable gaming? Each week we ask that question of our sister website Pocket Gamer. The PG team covers iOS gaming, just like 148Apps, but it also strays into the world of Android games and handheld consoles... | Read more »
Pokémon GO Generation 2 evolution guide
At long last, Niantic Labs finally unleashed the Generation 2 Pokémon into the wild. Pokémon GO trainers are scrambling to grab up this new set of 80 Pokémon. There are some special new tricks required to catch all of these new beasties, though.... | Read more »
The best new games we played this week
It feels as though the New Year got off to a creaking start as far as mobile games go, but that's changed over the past few weeks. The last few days alone have seen the debut of a number of wonderful games, so we thought we'd take the time to... | Read more »
Recruit more scallywags and discover new...
Get ready to show off your sea legs all over again in Oceans & Empires’ new grand update, which aims to make the act of rising to the role of seven seas ruler even more fresh and appealing, thanks to a richness of new content on both iOS and... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple restocks refurbished 2015 and 2016 13-i...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 and 2016 13″ MacBook Airs available starting at $759. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free: - 2016 13″ 1.6GHz/8GB/128GB... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro (Apple refurbished...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros (MD101LL/A) available for $829, or $270 off original MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook... Read more
QuickerTek Announces 5TB Apple AC AirPort Tim...
QuickerTek Inc. has announced their new 5TB hard drive upgrade for Apple’s AC AirPort Time Capsule. By customer request, this upgrade also features six external antennas and offers the highest... Read more
Apple Certified Refurbished iMacs available f...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 21″ & 27″ iMacs available for up to $350 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. The following models are available: - 21″ 3.... Read more
Apple offering Certified Refurbished Series 1...
Apple is now offering Certified Refurbished Series 1 and Series 2 Apple Watches for 14-16% off MSRP, starting at $229. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each watch. Shipping is free: Series... Read more
1.4GHz Mac mini on sale for $449, save $50
B&H Photo has the 1.4GHz Mac mini on sale for $50 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $449 $50 off MSRP Read more
12-inch Retina MacBooks on sale for $200-$250...
Newegg has the 12″ 1.2GHz Space Gray Retina MacBook (sku MLH82LL/A) on sale for $1349.99 including free shipping. Their price is $250 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model.... Read more
13-inch 2.0GHz Space Gray MacBook Pro on sale...
Adorama has the non-Touch Bar 13″ 2.0GHz Space Gray MacBook Pro in stock today for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges NY & NJ sales tax only: - 13″ 2.0GHz MacBook Pro Space Gray... Read more
13-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pros on sale for $1...
B&H Photo has select 2016 Apple 13″ Touch Bar MacBook Pros in stock today and up to $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 2.9GHz/512GB Touch Bar MacBook... Read more
KSI-1802R SX Disinfect-able Keyboard With Wav...
KSI has unveiled a new, innovative medical keyboard, the KSI-1802R SX, at HIMSS 2017, running February 19-22 in Orlando, Florida. KSI-1802R SX is the only keyboard that combines dual factor... Read more

Jobs Board

*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
Manager *Apple* Systems Administration - Pu...
Req ID 3315BR Position Title Manager, Apple Systems Administration Job Description The Manager of Apple Systems Administration oversees the administration and 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
Manager *Apple* Systems Administration - Pu...
Req ID 3315BR Position Title Manager, Apple Systems Administration Job Description The Manager of Apple Systems Administration oversees the administration and Read more
*Apple* Technician - nfrastructure (United S...
Let’s Work Together Apple Technician This position is based in Portland, ME Life at nfrastructure At nfrastructure, we understand that our success results from our Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.