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MacTech Spotlight: Mark Dalrymple, Google; Borkware LLC

Volume Number: 24
Issue Number: 12
Column Tag: MacTech Spotlight

MacTech Spotlight: Mark Dalrymple, Google; Borkware LLC


What do you do?

I'm a software engineer at Google working on Macintosh client applications. I'm also the principal author of "Advanced Mac OS X Programming" (AMOSXP) with Aaron Hillegass, and "Learn Objective-C on the Macintosh" (LoC) with Scott Knaster, two of the most amazing co-authors anyone could be blessed with.

I also have Borkware LLC, under which I do contracting-currently in mothballs.

How long have you been doing what you do?

I've been gainfully employed as a programmer for 18 years, a kid computer geek for 6 years before that. Now get off my lawn.

What was your first computer?

Apple ][. I learned to program that thing by typing in game listings from magazines. Fixing the inevitable typos was the best introduction to how programming works I can think of. I had a goal (start slaying dragons) and the thing standing in my way was some stupid FOR loop. I had incredible support from my father, Glenn Dalrymple, who nurtured my nascent nerdhood, patiently explaining things like "strings" and "integers". I won't talk about FORTRAN 77 in the USCD Pascal system running on the ][. That might be considered cruel.

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

I try to stay Unix-flavor only. I use Linux on SliceHost for my websites and the Mac for everything else. Amusingly enough, I tend to avoid Xcode, using emacs for my day to day work. My last foray into Xcode was writing a new chapter of X code tips and tricks for "Learn Objective-C On the Macintosh", where I ended up filing 30 bugs with Apple (more than one a page!), one of which I had to burn a DTS incident so I could finish the chapter. After that I returned to my lispy friend.

What attracts you to working on the Mac?

It's a great blend of Mac and NeXT goodness. I like the Mac UI, and I like the Unix command line world too. Right tool for the job.

What's the coolest thing about the Mac?

Cocoa and Objective-C rank number 1. The language and toolkit are the most fun I've had in programming in a long time. After that, comes the platform's software and design aesthetic. My favorite programs, like VoodooPad, Acron, MarsEdit, ScreenFlow, and TapeDeck strike a great balance between UI groovyness and down-to-earth functionality.

What is the advice you'd give to someone trying to get into this line of work today?

Even if you decide not to get a degree in computer science there are some fundamental things you should know, like algorithms, data structures, big-O notation, design patterns, and the like. Don't ignore the low-level stuff either - bitwise operators are still in use, and it's good to know them. Also get involved in Open Source projects, even as a consumer. You'll be looking at and modifying other people's code throughout your career, so might as well get used to it. Very little software these days is done by a lone coder.

Lastly, apply the golden rule: treat others with the dignity and respect you would like to be treated. A little humility goes a long way.

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

I'm not sure if it counts as cool, but I did get Oracle 8i running on Linux running on Virtual PC on OS 9 on a TiBook 500. It wasn't slow, it was majestic! But it worked well enough for what I wanted it to do.

Ever?

One of my proudest accomplishments that nobody's ever seen was the "List Manager" in Visix's cross-plaform Galaxy product in the early 90's. It was a scrolling arbitrarily sized 2-D table with lots of display and selection flexibility, designed so you could put a calculation engine underneath it and then have a functioning spreadsheet product.

Where can we see a sample of your work?

I have some very old code samples at Borkware, plus you can download the code samples from AMOSXP there. I also have a lot of code in Google's Update Engine project, that was open sourced in the fall.

Once I finish revising the books, I have a lot of cross-stitch software to write for my wife, Sharlotte.

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

Revised editions of Loc and AMOSXP. Right now I'm writing about FSEvents and Disk Arbitration. Woooo!!

Anything else we should know?

I'm actually a musician and photographer (I met the wife in an orchestra we played in), using this computer-thing as a way of paying for those two habits. You can see some of my photography at http://picasaweb.google.com/BorkwareLLC.


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