back to article Open source development goes Mac-tastic

There is no small irony in the prospect that Apple's Macintosh - arguably the ultimate in closed and proprietary systems, at least until the Intel alliance - could become the open source development platform of choice. The Register has spotted increasing numbers of Macs at open source developer events during the last year. …


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  1. Marcus Haas

    Windows apps prototyped on the Mac?

    Surely not!

    If memory serves, Excel was originally written for the Mac and only later was made available for Windows.

    Kind of annoying really, given that these days you have to wait ages for new Mac versions of Office, and then they don't always include all the features of the Windows version...

  2. Rich Silver badge


    WHY would you want to use a Mac out of choice to develop open source software?

    I have a Mac. I HATE it. If you strip away the UI, all you have left is a botched-up version of BSD. The command line tools work inconsistently because they are not all aware (or not FULLY aware) that the Mac (on a standard installation) uses case-independent filenames. This causes no end of trouble with scripts and stuff.

    The UI sticks all sorts of unwanted "._trash" (etc) files everywhere. This is REALLY helpful when it comes to packaging stuff up and transferring it to another platform.

    The UI itself is awful I simply can not understand why the Mac has such a good reputation for its UI. It features a number of annoying limitations and assumptions that make life very difficult, from simple stuff like the spell checker coving up what you are trying to spell check so you can't see the context, to horrible window management in general.

    All this (and much more) adds up to a far less-than-helpful development environment. Almost as bad as Windows, in fact.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    proprietary, how...?

    ok so webster's dictionary says:

    1 : one that possesses, owns, or holds exclusive right to something; specifically : PROPRIETOR 1

    2 : something that is used, produced, or marketed under exclusive legal right of the inventor or maker; specifically : a drug (as a patent medicine) that is protected by secrecy, patent, or copyright against free competition as to name, product, composition, or process of manufacture

    3 : a business secretly owned by and run as a cover for an intelligence organization

    that means, Linux is proprietary to GNU (wierd terms -yes, but still a copyright...), Mac OS is proprietary to Apple, Windows to MS...

    HTTP is not proprietary, TCP/IP is not proprietary, USB, DVI, ODF, etc...

    and just for the record, macintosh software stack =

    1.) cross-vendor openfirmware / intel efi

    2.) opensource darwin kernel and system libraries (UNIX spec 3 compliant as the article states) and x11 window mgr

    3.) closed source gui, closed source system libraries and frameworks like quicktime, core data, etc...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    webster's dickshinerry

    that dictionary you're referring to...

    would that be Webster Phreaky's dickshinnery?


  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    who cares what dictionary it is... about a counter argument...? I'm just curious what it is about the mac that's any more proprietary than any other device...

    oh and as for the UI comment guy earlier - well i personally find some things in the UI quite nice, like the dock. but then again i also find some of windows' UI things nice. the only UI's i've seen that i find botched are KDE and Gnome... copying the worst of windows with a subtle hint of no-one-in-charge is definitely not becoming...

    however i very much agree; case sensitive non-case sensitive sucks badly - pick a side; any side. hidden files however - well that i think is actually quite good as the UI context only shows whats relevant to it and the console/bsd layer context shows everything on the system as that's what's needed... what's the big problem with that?

  6. Walt French


    "...arguably the ultimate in closed and proprietary systems, at least until the Intel alliance..."

    Arguably the most out-dated of misperceptions. Desktop Mac OSX was released six years ago -- in 2001. (The server version came out in 1999.) The APIs, while they have gotten richer, and other enhancements have been made, still have the same structure. This structure is generally friendly to other Unix-style systems, while Windows frameworks are more standalone.

    Meanwhile, the Intel transition was over 2 years ago (announced in June '05). The change to the programmers' view of the system? A few bits 'n' pieces, mostly for a few developers who tuned for high-performance math on the PPC (bypassing Apple's math libraries) or those (such as MS and Adobe!?!) who were too smart to use Apple's development roadmap and locked into pre-OSX frameworks, building a large library of now-orphaned code.

    The irrelevance of the Intel transition can be seen in the recent announcement of the new MS Excel: although the hardware platform is now essentially identical with Windows-only machines', MS is jettisoning major compatibility functionality, especially user-written or third-party functions and macros.

  7. Dan Shockley

    Where are these rumors you speak of?

    "was always rumoured that early Windows applications"

    I'd like to hear more about this little tidbit. Rumors? Early? Which ones?

    For example, Microsoft DID make Word, Excel, and Powerpoint for Macintosh before any Windows versions (Windows didn't even exist yet). Photoshop was made for Macintosh for about 10 years (more?) before they ported it to Windows.

    So, I'm curious about the rumors - are you suggesting that some developers go to the trouble to make a Macintosh version of their product, never release that, then port it to Windows and only sell it to Windows users? That's a pretty amazing claim - I have a hard time believing that you're saying that. But, if you aren't then where are the rumors, as opposed to the facts we have seen - Macintosh releases before Windows releases. I suppose your one loop-hole would be simultaneous releases - you could say that rumors are they made the Mac version first, then sat on it for a while, until Windows was ready. That seems like a dumb business decision, too.

    Perhaps you just threw the word "rumor" out there to try to undermine the positive nature of the piece. That's not balanced reporting, it's just silly.

  8. Albert Wallace

    Dear Mr. Rich

    I "hate" to see someone suffer so. With a little research (Research? Yes, I'm sorry. Sometime we must make work to learn new things.) your problems will go away.

  9. Andy

    My word.

    "Apple's Macintosh - arguably the ultimate in closed and proprietary systems"

    Quite a feat, seeing as how Xcode, the Apple-designed, best-in-class development environment for OS X, has been completely free, for anyone, for many years. Macs have always allowed 3rd party development. Please don't post crap like this.

    The fact that anyone can see this is rubbish leads one to assume it's simply flamebait. Congratulations. I'll await your retraction (ha ha).

  10. Matt Hamilton

    Development sprints

    From my experience of Plone (open source CMS) development sprints and conferences there is about a 50/50 mix of Mac and PC laptops. As Plone itself runs on Linux/Unix, MacOS and Windows, it is healthy to see a mix of development environments in use. I personally use a Macbook Pro for development, not so much for the OS itself, but for the whole package. It 'just works' and I like the unix-ness of the underneath (I cut my teeth on BSD) but with a good productivity layer on top. ie. I can switch between editing an image in photoshop, checking something into svn on the command line, compiling something, and viewing a MS Word doc from a client, all on the same machine. Yes, there are OSS variants of the productivity apps, but I'd rather spend my time developing the bit that puts bread on my table (Plone) rather than tinkering endlessly with the OS.


  11. Morely Dotes

    Good, bad... I'm the guy with the compiler.

    "The UI itself is awful I simply can not understand why the Mac has such a good reputation for its UI. It features a number of annoying limitations and assumptions that make life very difficult, from simple stuff like the spell checker coving up what you are trying to spell check so you can't see the context, to horrible window management in general."

    Mac's UI look and works so well *in comparison to Microsoft Windows" that it is help up as an example.

    But then, the same is true for the Ohio Art Etch A Sketch(tm). And, like OSX, it isn't subject to the viruses, trojans, or rootkits that infest MS Windows.

  12. Blain Hamon



    (Hardware, mind you. Running Linux on a pre-intel PowerMac G5)


    (Okay, okay, Java is proprietary too)

    Since the beginning:

    G'won. Tell them about how iWork uses the proprietary formats of tarballed .tiff and .xml in directories, instead of Office's clear and free .doc, .xls, and .ppt formats.

  13. na101010

    Wah wah wah

    I can see this whole thread dragging on like all the others out there.

    Since this has turned into the ubi "which is better" thread, it's time to scream "DEAD HORSE!!!"

    Like Matt alluded to:

    The right tool for the job is the one that does what you need it to do the way you want to do it.

    Don't forget to hit the lights.

  14. Brian Ray

    Open Source Mac, all the way

    IMHO, The Mac is the best platform for open-source development. It exemplifies the union of the best UI on top of a not-so-bad BSD distro. Now with Parallels, you can develop to many systems on one machine.

  15. Don Mitchell

    OS X origins

    OS X is based ultimately on CMU's Mach kernel, not on the Berkeley kernel.

  16. Joe Cooper


    I use Mac full time, and I would agree about the UI, it's given me renewed appreciation for Microsoft Windows.

    That said, about your scripts, if you reinstall OSX using the "Unix Filesystem" than it will be case sensitive :)

    Also about scripts you might want to make sure to trim any newline characters. I've encountered script bugs where scripts run different on UFS and HFS based Macs because of the filesystems handling newlines differently.

  17. Sabahattin Gucukoglu


    Apple are borrowing quite a bit from NetBSD for the top-level tools in Darwin (I.E., the bottom half of OSX). NetBSD is decidedly excellent in the POSIX conformance thing, so I suspect Apple have made a few more shameless grabs...



  18. John Savard Silver badge

    Mac Proprietary?

    Before OS X, the Macintosh operating system was, like Windows, completely closed-source. But, in addition, the hardware platform was also made by Apple only.

    This didn't mean it wasn't possible to add third-party software and hardware, but that was a difference between it and the PC-compatible world, where the hardware platform was provided by many different manufacturers.

    Today, part of OS X is still proprietary; the source isn't public or available for change and free redistribution, like Linux. It still only runs on a computer made by Apple, the actual Macintosh. So Windows has a hardware platform made by others, while the Macintosh has an underlying BSD distribution in its software; these two things have different relative values to different people, which is why the original story said "arguably".

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Proprietary - so what?

    I'm a veteran software developer, and after so many years in the business I agree with Matt. I have a family, hobbies (other than software), and a busy life all around - I simply don't want to spend a lot of time getting my development environment to work. Besides, I share my Mac with my wife, and she is not a tech-freak.

    I can't quite understand Rich's rantings - if he hates Macs so much, why did he buy one in the first place? Surely one looks at a product that puts you at least $1000 back before committing to it, or not?

    Apple managed to boost its sales quite remarkably with the Intel based Macs, for various reasons. Their success makes the question if OS X is open source or not pretty irrelevant, doesn't it?


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