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MacTech Spotlight-Paul Kafasis CEO, Rogue Amoeba Software

Volume Number: 23 (2007)
Issue Number: 05
Column Tag: MacTech Spotlight

MacTech Spotlight: Paul Kafasis CEO, Rogue Amoeba Software

Your Company?

Rogue Amoeba Software

What do you do?

My official title is CEO/Lackey, which makes me the high and low man on the corporate ladder here. Essentially, it's my job to make sure the programmers can keep on programming. That means I handle product management, business development, marketing, website content, some support, and much more.

How long have you been doing what you do?

I've been working for Rogue Amoeba since we founded it in 2002. I've been handling various aspects of software development (at other companies) for about 8 years total, but Rogue Amoeba has been by far the most successful.

Your first computer:

My first computer was a Mac Plus, in about 1987, with 8 blistering MHz of CPU power.

Are you Mac-only, or a multi-platform person?

As far as my personal use, I'm exclusively on the Mac, and have been since that Mac Plus. I have various levels of understanding of Unix, Linux, Solaris and Windows, from working support jobs in college, and Rogue Amoeba has one Windows port (of Airfoil) that I use a cheap Dell to test. That Dell spends 95% of the day turned off, secretly wishing it was a Mac.

What attracts you to working on the Mac?

I never sat down and said "I'm going to develop software, and I'm going to do it on the Mac". It happened organically - everyone at Rogue Amoeba uses a Mac, so naturally we develop for the Mac.

There certainly are things that make it exciting and keep us here on the Mac, however. First and foremost, the user community is great in terms of purchasing and supporting third party software. People often assume if we developed for Windows, we'd have much higher sales volume. However, it seems that far fewer Windows users purchase third party software, and there are often many alternatives and competitors. The user base may be much larger, but that doesn't instantly mean success.

As well, OS X is a great platform to develop on. It's young, it's fresh, and it's constantly being updated with new technologies. When we first started developing on it (in 10.0), it was a wide open playing field - no one wanted to run Classic if they could avoid it, so old applications could be remade and reworked, and new ideas could be explored.

What's the coolest thing about the Mac?

I hear this question a lot, and I don't think there's one specific thing. It's not "the Dock" or "great third party software". For me, the best part about the whole Apple experience is the attention to detail.

My MacBook's MagSafe connector is a perfect example of this - I've personally pulled at least one laptop off a table by tripping over the power cord, but never again. The accessible case of the G3/G4 towers, the scrolling track pad of newer laptops, the built-in iSight - they all represent an attention to detail and the way users work that I just don't see evident in other machines.

If I could change one thing about Apple/OS X, I'd:

This question is a setup for disaster and retaliation, isn't it? As far as OS X goes, I'd like to see a new/rewritten Finder.

In terms of changing Apple itself, without question I'd like to change their culture of secrecy. Users aren't terribly affected by this, they just get surprised when Apple unveils a major new product like the iPod. However, as far as being a developer on the platform, getting information and details on anything from Apple is like pulling teeth. From bug reporting to specifications of existing and upcoming products, we've always had a hard time getting to the people we need at Apple through what few established channels exist. This is sort of accepted by the Mac development community, but Apple's complete lack of communication with its third-party developers is far from the norm with most companies.

What's the coolest tech thing you've done using OS X?

I'll use this to talk about something we did at Rogue Amoeba. When working on Airfoil 2, back at the end of 2005, we decided to attempt to add support for sending audio to multiple AirPort Express units. And while it is straightforward to send audio to multiple units, keeping the playback between them properly synchronized, is not. Quentin worked a great deal trying to find a way to synchronize audio with the limited options provided by the AirTunes protocol. After about two months of research, a way was found by reading undocumented quality-of-service reports from the Airport Express, combined with an audio stretching/shrinking algorithm. It worked, but was eventually fall out of sync. At this point Mike Ash took over, and spent another month working on some high-level math to get units working nearly perfectly in sync with one another.

We released this January 7th, with the hopes of revolutionizing the way people used AirPort Express units. On January 10th, Apple released iTunes 6.0.2 with AirTunes 2, which quietly added support for multiple synchronized units as well. To solve the synchronization problem, they completely redid the AirTunes protocol (called AirTunes 2), to support synchronization natively.

We were eventually told by Apple, that they didn't believe synchronization with AirTunes 1 was possible, at all. So we had achieved the impossible, but no one ever knew.

Where can we see a sample of your work?

The software I've worked with everyone at Rogue Amoeba to create, is available on our website at Free trials of all our software can be downloaded there, and license keys can be purchased through our online store.

The next way I'm going to impact IT/OS X/the Mac universe is:

I think Rogue Amoeba's next product, as yet unannounced, will really have a major impact. Audio Hijack and Audio Hijack Pro have focused on recording in general. With our next application, we're going back to Audio Hijack's roots and doing radio recording right. If you've ever watched and record TV with Tivo, you'll have some idea of what we're doing. That'll be coming in the first quarter of 2007, and we're really excited.

Anything else we should know?

I hope people will check out our software, we've got free trials of all of it, as well as several useful Freebies. If that's not interesting enough, we've also got stylish t-shirts and plush toys of our mascot Ammo.


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