TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Mac OS X Programming Secrets

Volume Number: 19 (2003)
Issue Number: 4
Column Tag: Mac OS X Programming Secrets

Mac OS X Programming Secrets

by Scott Knaster

    I am honored, privileged, and more than a little thrilled to welcome Scott Knaster to the fold here at MacTech. In the Mac programming universe, Scott is a legend, both for his sense of humor and for books like Macintosh Programming Secrets and How to Write Macintosh Software. While I was busy writing about C and the basics of the Mac Toolbox, Scott was taking folks to the next level, writing about off screen drawing, spinning cursors, VBL tasks, dialog filters, etc.

    And that's just what we're gonna do here. While Getting Started will focus on the basics, Mac OS X Programming Secrets will take you to the next level. And for those of you who have yet to experience Scott, trust me. You are in for a treat!

    Dave Mark

    Editor-in-Chief


Thanks, Dave, for that awesome introduction. I'll try mightily to live up to those high expectations. And now, let's get started. But how to begin?

[Option #1: the wacky two-liner.] Well, I haven't written anything about Mac programming since about 1990. So as I was saying...

[Option #2: the clueless.] Hi. I've been basically out of the Mac universe for the last 10 years. Did anything interesting happen? Is Apple still in business? Excuse me... the company is run by who? Mac OS is now based on what? Hahahahahahaha!!! You big kidder!

[Option #3: keeping it real.]

That's me: always with the joking around. But really, when I think about writing for MacTech, my whole MacLife (not the same as iLife) flashes before my eyes, and I ponder how I got started on the Mac, how I ended up back here again, and what happened in between.

Programming Is Great Fun

My story, dear reader, is one of extreme good fortune and a personality tic. The lucky part came back in 1984 when I managed to find a job in the developer support department of the Macintosh division at Apple. I knew a little about programming and was in love with working at Apple, but I had never seen anything like the Mac - of course, very few of us had.

On my first day, my boss, Cary Clark, showed me the professional Mac development environment of the era. It consisted of a Mac with 128K RAM, a Lisa connected to the Mac for compiling and building applications in Pascal, and an Apple III (or Apple ///, as we insisted on spelling it) used as a dumb terminal for talking to the object-code debugger. Yes, it took three-fourths of Apple's computer models just to say "Hello World" on an underpowered original Mac. I was in awe.

I spent the next 3 years helping developers get their apps running on those early Macs. Because I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, I learned a ton of cool stuff about Mac programming and debugging, like how to figure out what was on the stack, what really happened when heaps were compacted, and what caused system errors. Because lots of people were interested in learning these things, I wrote it all down in a couple of books, thus freeing my brain cells for important work, such as knowing it was Randy Van Warmer who sang the smash hit "I'd Really Love To See You Tonight".

Attentive readers will recall that way back a few paragraphs ago, I said it was luck and a personality tic that helped my career. The luck was finding myself in Mac developer support; the tic is that when I learn about cool new technology, like Mac programming, I just gotta tell other people about it. I can't stand keeping it to myself. This is a wonderful trait for a tech support guy and a writer.

Eventually, I got distracted by a shiny object or something, and I wandered away from the Mac for awhile. I wrote many charming but now-useless technical docs, first about Pink, one of Apple's several failed fix-the-Mac-OS crusades, and then about Magic Cap, a really wonderful OS and UI toolkit for personal communicators that just didn't catch on. Most surprising of all journeys, I ended up spending a number of happy years at Microsoft (yes, that Microsoft), at first working on Mac software, then writing books about Windows user interface guidelines, of all things.

New Things Happened

And then, Mac OS X sprang forth. A hypnotically pretty user interface, a foundation based on Unix (go figure), and lots of attention and cool new apps came with it. Apple's dark days had come to an end. Although I was making my living on that other platform, I was always drawn back to the Mac. When Apple started shipping Macs with OS X pre-installed in 2001, I bought an iBook and had a torrid affair with the new operating system. Although it wasn't ready for prime time then, you could tell that it had a great future - kind of how it felt using a Mac in 1984 or so. For the next two years, I always found time to keep up with OS X, messing around with development tools and generally having fun with all the new stuff Apple kept tossing our way.

When I said farewell to my employment at Microsoft (and my WinXP lifestyle) earlier this year, I fell down the OS X rabbit hole at full velocity. I found myself getting up early and staying up late, playing with all the toys: Project Builder, Terminal, Cocoa, Carbon, etc. Mac programming today is a surreal fusion of traditional Apple stuff and full-on Unix, and we haven't even begun to tap all the power that's in there. My goal in writing this column is to stay one step ahead, to show you something each month that you didn't know about before.

I find myself cursing Unixy things like folder permissions and command line syntax booboos, even while I enjoy trying to figure them out. Placing Unix under Aqua is a little like having a hood on my car. Mostly I just drive the car, but once in a while I like to open the hood to learn about or tweak something inside. Sometimes that's frustrating, but it's always educational.

I'm past the point where operating systems are a religion with me. I lived happily on last millennium's Mac OS for a long time, Windows for a few years, and now it's Mac OS X. There are things I like and dislike about each of them. I enjoy having all of them around, because they're fun to delve into and they all help me get work done. Although it's far from perfect, OS X might be my favorite OS ever because there's just so much stuff to mess with. And because after all these years, I find that my brain is still tuned to Apple's frequency: I keep coming back to Apple products because they usually feel right to me.

There Is Plenty To Do

So the truth is this column is my excuse to keep diving into OS X programming and then inflicting the results upon you, dear reader, because I just can't keep it to myself. There's so much to write about: great tools, cool tricks with frameworks, little-known APIs, debugging tips, odd and fun nooks in the system. Everything is new again, and we're all bozos on this bus. I want to write about all of it at once, but unfortunately the laws of physics prohibit this, so I'll do it one column per issue.

Speaking selfishly, I know I'm going to have a great time, and I hope you find some of it useful or amusing, because that would please the publisher and editors of MacTech. So thanks for coming along.

And I now that I think of it, it was England Dan & John Ford Coley who sang the smash hit "I'd Really Love To See You Tonight". I guess I better start writing more stuff down to free up brain space.


Scott Knaster has been writing about Macs for as long as there have been Macs. Scott's books How To Write Macintosh Software and Macintosh Programming Secrets were required reading for Mac programmers for more than a decade. Scott wrote developer books for General Magic and worked on Mac software for Microsoft. Scott's books have been translated into Japanese and Pascal. Scott has every issue of Mad magazine, which explains a lot.

 
AAPL
$100.96
Apple Inc.
-0.83
MSFT
$47.52
Microsoft Corpora
+0.84
GOOG
$596.08
Google Inc.
+6.81

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Airfoil 4.8.9 - Send audio from any app...
Airfoil allows you to send any audio to AirPort Express units, Apple TVs, and even other Macs and PCs, all in sync! It's your audio - everywhere. With Airfoil you can take audio from any... Read more
WhatRoute 1.13.0 - Geographically trace...
WhatRoute is designed to find the names of all the routers an IP packet passes through on its way from your Mac to a destination host. It also measures the round-trip time from your Mac to the... Read more
Chromium 37.0.2062.122 - Fast and stable...
Chromium is an open-source browser project that aims to build a safer, faster, and more stable way for all Internet users to experience the web. FreeSMUG-Free OpenSource Mac User Group build is... Read more
Attachment Tamer 3.1.14b9 - Take control...
Attachment Tamer gives you control over attachment handling in Apple Mail. It fixes the most annoying Apple Mail flaws, ensures compatibility with other email software, and allows you to set up how... Read more
Duplicate Annihilator 5.0 - Find and del...
Duplicate Annihilator takes on the time-consuming task of comparing the images in your iPhoto library using effective algorithms to make sure that no duplicate escapes. Duplicate Annihilator detects... Read more
jAlbum Pro 12.2 - Organize your digital...
jAlbum Pro has all the features you love in jAlbum, but comes with a commercial license. With jAlbum, you can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code!... Read more
jAlbum 12.2 - Create custom photo galler...
With jAlbum, you can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code! Beginner-friendly, with pro results Simply drag and drop photos into groups, choose a design... Read more
Quicken 2015 2.0.4 - Complete personal f...
Quicken 2015 helps you manage all your personal finances in one place, so you can see where you're spending and where you can save. Quicken automatically categorizes your financial transactions,... Read more
iMazing 1.0 - Complete iOS device manage...
iMazing (formerly DiskAid) is the ultimate iOS device manager with capabilities far beyond what iTunes offers. With iMazing and your iOS device (iPhone, iPad, or iPod), you can: Copy music to and... Read more
Xcode 6.0.1 - Integrated development env...
Apple Xcode is Apple Computer's integrated development environment (IDE) for OS X. The full Xcode package is free to ADC members and includes all the tools you need to create, debug, and optimize... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

View Source – HTML, JavaScript and CSS...
View Source – HTML, JavaScript and CSS 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Utilities Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: View Source is an app plus an iOS 8 Safari extension that makes it easy to do one key web developer... | Read more »
Avenged Sevenfold’s Hail To The King: De...
Avenged Sevenfold’s Hail To The King: Deathbat is Coming to iOS on October 16th Posted by Jessica Fisher on September 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Just in time for Halloween, on October 16 Avenged Sevenfold will be launching | Read more »
Talisman Has Gone Universal – Can Now be...
Talisman Has Gone Universal – Can Now be Played on the iPhone Posted by Jessica Fisher on September 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Tap Army Review
Tap Army Review By Jennifer Allen on September 19th, 2014 Our Rating: :: SHOOT EM ALLUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Mindless but fun, Tap Army is a lane-based shooter that should help you relieve some stress.   | Read more »
Monsters! Volcanoes! Loot! Epic Island f...
Monsters! Volcanoes! Loot! | Read more »
Plunder Pirates: Tips, Tricks, Strategie...
Ahoy There, Seadogs: Interested in knowing our thoughts on all this plundering and pirating? Check out our Plunder Pirates Review! Have you just downloaded the rather enjoyable pirate-em-up Plunder Pirates and are in need of some assistance? Never... | Read more »
Goat Simulator Review
Goat Simulator Review By Lee Hamlet on September 19th, 2014 Our Rating: :: THE GRUFFEST OF BILLY GOATSUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Unleash chaos as a grumpy goat in this humorous but short-lived casual game.   | Read more »
A New and Improved Wunderlist is Here fo...
A New and Improved Wunderlist is Here for iOS 8 Posted by Jessica Fisher on September 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Evernote Update for iOS 8 Adds Web Clipp...
Evernote Update for iOS 8 Adds Web Clipping, Quick Notes, and More Posted by Ellis Spice on September 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Apple Names Ultimate Productivity Bundl...
Apple Names Ultimate Productivity Bundle by Readdle as the Essential Bundle on the App Store Posted by Jessica Fisher on September 19th, 2014 [ permalink | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Updated Price Trackers
We’ve updated our Mac Price Trackers with the latest information on prices, bundles, and availability on systems from Apple’s authorized internet/catalog resellers: - 15″ MacBook Pros - 13″ MacBook... Read more
Mac Pros available for up to $260 off MSRP
Adorama has Mac Pros on sale for up to $260 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax in NY & NJ only: - 4-core Mac Pro: $2839.99, $160 off MSRP - 6-core Mac Pro: $3739.99, $260... Read more
13-inch 2.6GHz/256GB Retina MacBook Pros avai...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.6GHz/256GB Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $1379 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $120 off MSRP. Read more
Previous-generation 15-inch 2.0GHz Retina Mac...
B&H Photo has leftover previous-generation 15″ 2.0GHz Retina MacBook Pros now available for $1599 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $400 off original MSRP. B&H... Read more
21″ 2.7GHz iMac available for $1179, save $12...
Adorama has 21″ 2.7GHz Hawell iMacs on sale for $1179.99 including free shipping. Their price is $120 off MSRP. NY and NJ sales tax only. Read more
iOS 8 Adoption Rate Slower than iOS 7, 6, Hit...
Apple began pushing out iOS 8 updates to eligible devices around 1pm ET on September 17, 2014. However, unlike with iOS 7, which boasted a wide variety of differences from its predecessor iOS 6, in... Read more
LIkely Final Definitive OS X 10.9.5 Mavericks...
Apple has released what will almost certainly be the last incremental version number update of OS X 10.9 Mavericks (save for futire security updates) before OS X 10.10 Yosemite is released next month... Read more
Fingerprints, Apple Pay and Identity Theft Wa...
On Sep 9th, CEO Tim Cook unveiled Apple Pay, along with the new iPhone 6 and iWatch. Apple Pay is a newly developed technology that utilizes a near field communication (NFC) to enable customer... Read more
Amazon Introduces Two All-New Kindles
Amazon on Thursday introduced the 7th generation of its Kindle dedicated e-reader device: Kindle Voyage, its top-of-the-line e-reader, and the new $79 Kindle, with a 20% faster processor, twice the... Read more
Save up to $300 on the price of a new Mac wit...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad at The Apple Store for Education and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free,... Read more

Jobs Board

*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
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...
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
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.