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MacTech Spotlight: Kent Sutherland

Volume Number: 23 (2007)
Issue Number: 11
Column Tag: Spotlight

MacTech Spotlight: Kent Sutherland, Independent Developer/Student

Independent Developer/Student

What do you do?

I'm a nineteen-year-old, third-year undergraduate computer science student at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY. I work on Chax and other programming projects in my free time. Chax is an InputManager bundle that adds features to iChat. I have also contributed to Adium as part of Google's 2006 Summer of Code.

How long have you been doing what you do?

I initially released Chax in December of 2005, but I've been programming on OS X since my freshmen year of high school. In middle school I dabbled in Mac Toolbox/C and HyperCard, although at that age I wasn't old enough to really understand what I was doing -- I just knew that programming was something that I wanted to do.

Your first computer:

The first computer I used was a Mac IIsi that my parents bought when I was about three years old. I was hooked, and I've been a full-blown computer addict and Mac user ever since.

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

Through most of high school I was an exclusive Mac user, but I've become more familiar with other platforms in the past few years. I much prefer using and developing on the Mac, but I do own a PC running Windows and Linux. It spends most of its time powered off.

What attracts you to working on the Mac?

A number of different things draw me to the Mac, one of them being the Mac community itself. It's so cool that individuals or small teams of developers can create some really neat programs and get the attention of a large portion of the Mac community. I initially developed Chax for my own use, but it eventually attracted the attention of a bunch of users, blogs, and magazines. Being able to create something and actually make a difference is surprising to me, especially in a fairly short amount of time.

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

I'd get Apple to put a higher priority on speed. It feels as if Apple doesn't put nearly enough time into optimizing new software. Aperture being a prime example -- I remember an early version of Aperture on a quad G5 being virtually unusable. While progressive releases do get faster, it would be nice to see Apple get this right the first time around.

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

The coolest thing that I've done in OS X, so far, is Chax. Although the InputManager injection method that Chax uses to load into iChat is one of the simplest ways of getting inside an application, it's cool how much you can do with Objective-C once you're in. Coding inside iChat has also been a great learning experience for me. I've gained a more detailed understanding of Objective-C and better reverse engineering skills as a result.

Outside of OS X, another project that I enjoyed was a computer vision project for a class that performed basic face recognition. There wasn't anything innovative about it, but as I'm still learning more about computer science every day, I found it an interesting subject. As computers get faster and built-in cameras become more common, I'm hoping to see more applications that use these cameras for live input and perform more sophisticated image processing in real time. iChat Theater in Leopard is a fun example, but applications that leverage real-time object or face recognition could be even more useful.

Where can we see a sample of your work?

Chax, and its source code, is available for free on my website at

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

I'm not yet sure what my next big thing is going to be. Continuing with Chax in Leopard and beyond is certainly a possibility, but there's a lot more out there than just working off of Apple's applications. I am definitely going to work on more Mac applications and projects in the future.


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