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

OmniGraffle Pro 6.1.4 - 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
OmniGraffle 6.1.4 - 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
MegaSeg 5.9.5 - Professional MP3 DJ appl...
MegaSeg is a complete solution for pro audio/video DJ mixing, radio automation, and music scheduling with rock-solid performance and an easy-to-use design. Mix with visual waveforms and Magic... Read more
MarsEdit 3.6.8 - Quick and convenient bl...
MarsEdit is a blog editor for OS X that makes editing your blog like writing email, with spell-checking, drafts, multiple windows, and even AppleScript support. It works with with most blog services... Read more
BBEdit 11.0.3 - 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
Microsoft Office Preview 15.8 - Popular...
Welcome to the new and modern Microsoft Office for Mac. You will receive regular updates automatically until the official release in the second half of 2015. With the redesigned Ribbon and your... Read more
Yosemite Cache Cleaner 9.0.5 - Clear cac...
Yosemite Cache Cleaner is an award-winning general purpose tool for OS X. YCC makes system maintenance simple with an easy point-and-click interface to many OS X functions. Novice and expert users... Read more
ExpanDrive 4.3.2 - 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
RapidWeaver 6.0.8 - Create template-base...
RapidWeaver is a next-generation Web design application to help you easily create professional-looking Web sites in minutes. No knowledge of complex code is required, RapidWeaver will take care of... Read more
Artlantis Studio 5.1.2.7 - 3D rendering...
Artlantis Studio is a unique and ideal tool for performing very high resolution rendering easily and in real time. The new FastRadiosity engine now lets you compute images in radiosity-even in... Read more

Take a First Look at NaturalMotion’s Daw...
NaturalMotion has released a preview of their upcoming title, Dawn of Titans. Dawn of Titans immerses you in a world of fantasy as you build your kingdom, raise an army, and capture territories. The focus on this epic action strategy game was the... | Read more »
GDC 2015 – Warfriends is Something Famil...
GDC 2015 – Warfriends is Something Familiar That’s Also a Little Different Posted by Rob Rich on March 6th, 2015 [ permalink ] About Fun‘s upcoming Warfriends is quite the interesting hybrid. | Read more »
Bored? MyLeisure FreeTime Maximizer Will...
Bored? MyLeisure FreeTime Maximizer Will Take Care of That! Posted by Jessica Fisher on March 5th, 2015 [ permalink ] iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad | Read more »
New Publisher Allstar Games Heads West w...
Allstar Games has announced its first mobile title designed for western audiences, Allstar Heroes. The game will be a massive online battle arena (MOBA) that offers dozens of heroes for you to collect and pit against your opponents. As each hero has... | Read more »
RAD Boarding Review
RAD Boarding Review By Jennifer Allen on March 5th, 2015 Our Rating: :: NEARLY RADUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad RAD Boarding isn’t quite one of the greats, but it has potential.   | Read more »
Presenting the International Mobile Gami...
11th Annual International Mobile Gaming Awards ceremony, hosted by actress Allison Haislip, gathered mobile game developers and publishers from around the world. They chose 13 winners out of the 93 nominations. British studio USTWO won the the Grand... | Read more »
AG Drive Review
AG Drive Review By Tre Lawrence on March 5th, 2015 Our Rating: :: FUTURISTIC STREET RACING.Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Futuristic racing… interstellar style.   | Read more »
GDC 2015 – Nightmare Guardians is an Int...
GDC 2015 – Nightmare Guardians is an Interesting Hybrid of MOBA and Lane Defense Posted by Rob Rich on March 5th, 2015 [ permalink ] I have to say that lane defense (i.e. | Read more »
Overkill 3 Review
Overkill 3 Review By Tre Lawrence on March 5th, 2015 Our Rating: :: WHO'S NEXT?Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Cover system gameplay in the third-person.   Developer: Craneballs Price: Free Version Reviewed: 1.1.6... | Read more »
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment A...
Warner Bros. has some exciting games coming down the pipe! | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

16GB iPad mini 3 on sale for $349, save $50
 Walmart has the 16GB iPad mini 3 WiFi on sale on their online store for $349.99 including free shipping or free local store pickup. Their price is $50 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available... Read more
Save up to 15% with Apple refurbished Time Ca...
The Apple Store has certified refurbished Time Capsules available for up to $60 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each Time Capsule, and shipping is free: - 2TB Time Capsule: $255... Read more
Save up to $105 on AppleCare Protection Plans
B&H Photo has 3-Year AppleCare Warranties on sale for up to $105 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - Mac Laptops 15″ and Above: $244 $105 off MSRP - Mac Laptops 13″ and... Read more
Apple restocks refurbished 15-inch Retina Mac...
The Apple Store has restocked Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 15″ Retina MacBook Pros, available for up to $400 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model,... Read more
Roundup of MacBook Air sale prices, models up...
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
New Firstrade Mobile App Enables On-The-Go Tr...
Firstrade Securities Inc. has announced its new mobile app, which gives investors immediate access to the company’s trading platform on all mobile devices. The app was developed in-house and was... Read more
Sonnet Introduces USB 3.0 + eSATA Thunderbolt...
Sonnet has announced the launch of its new USB 3.0 + eSATA Thunderbolt Adapter for easy connectivity to USB 3.0 devices and eSATA storage, and USB 3.0 + Gigabit Ethernet Thunderbolt Adapter for easy... Read more
Apple restocks refurbished 27-inch 5K iMacs f...
The Apple Store has restocked Apple Certified Refurbished 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMacs for $2119 including free shipping. Their price is $380 off the cost of new models, and it’s the lowest price available... Read more
Free Clean Reader Mobile App Hides Swear Word...
The new Clean Reader app, now available in the Apple App Store and Google Play, delivers the opportunity of reading any book without being exposed to profanity. By selecting how clean they want their... Read more
Kinsa Launches “Groups” App to Monitor Illnes...
Kinsa, makers of the first FDA approved app-enabled smartphone thermometer thst won the 2013 Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovation Grand Prize and recently appeared in Apple’s “Parenthood” TV... Read more

Jobs Board

*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
*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* 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
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
…Summary** As a Specialist, you help create the energy and excitement around Apple products, providing the right solutions and getting products into customers' hands. You Read more
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** The Apple Store is a retail environment like no other - uniquely focused on delivering amazing customer experiences. As an Expert, you introduce people Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.