TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Jan 98 Viewpoint

Volume Number: 14 (1998)
Issue Number: 1
Column Tag: Viewpoint

Viewpoint

by Eric Gundrum

A Call for a More Open Mac OS

In recent years, most Macintosh developers have looked to Apple to provide the innovation of the Macintosh platform. We had no choice. To change the look and feel of main components of the operating system meant unreliable, system-wide patches, and these left the developer to the whim of Apple engineers who changed the underlying data structures, on which the developer's patches relied, just because they could. This is a tough area to make a business, but some developers still stuck it out. Nonetheless, there are fewer such products available today, and they generally receive the blame before anything else for unexpected system behavior, rightly or wrongly.

It seems clear that the new Apple no longer has the resources to be as innovative as they once were; we developers have to do more of it ourselves. However, Apple can still help; they can start opening the OS to make it easier for third party developers to replace complete components for the entire system.

Recently, Apple has been developing support for multiple themes to provide the user with choices for the overall look and feel of the Mac interface. I just hope they go far enough. This technology can allow independent developers to produce alternative interface themes. We can have a Windows 95 theme to help the Mac better fit in Wintel environments. We can have a cartoon theme for the kids. Novices can have themes making it easier to learn their way around a computer. Expert users can have themes which allow them to be more productive. Because Apple (hopefully) is clearly defining the API between the various components of themes, we developers can easily explore new interface technologies without the risk of unreliable system patches.

If Apple opens the system enough, and in the right places, we can fix their mistakes (like the gray menus and window backgrounds of the Mac OS 8 Finder) and we can try out new things. In fact, I'd very much like to see a stronger separation between the Finder and the general operation of the operating system. (After all, the Finder is just another application, isn't it?) There are great opportunities to provide alternatives to the Finder. Some people want a Finder alternative that takes less RAM, and they are willing to give up features to get it. I'd like a Finder that makes better use of sound and motion to enhance productivity.

Does anyone remember Sonic Finder and Motion Finder of the late 1980s? Sonic Finder provided audible feedback to various Finder activities such as copying, moving and trashing files. Motion Finder allowed icons and windows to be thrown across the screen. Instead of dragging an icon from the upper left corner of a 20 inch display to the trash in the lower right corner, a simple flick of the wrist was enough to send the icon sailing in the direction of the Trash. If my aim was good enough, the icon made it in, and the file was deleted. There was even a version that combined these features. These tools were developed as explorations in alternative interfaces. Apple probably abandoned them because they would not work for a majority of users. Unfortunately, those of us on the fringe were abandoned in the process.

Now, if only Apple would open up the OS enough that we developers could plug in our own alternative interfaces, then we could again see some real innovation on the Macintosh.

Navigation Services, an Open Design?

One example of Apple moving in the right direction is their Navigation Services technology. This will be a replacement for the Standard File package we have all come to love and hate. Navigation Services will provide a new file system navigation interface for all applications that use it. It is supposed to provide a variety of hooks for developers to enhance its capabilities. I am hoping that with this new technology, Apple also allows developers to write complete replacements of the Navigation Services libraries. Apple is going to the trouble to define the API between Navigation Services and all applications and the API to the file system, Apple also should be open enough to let us developers completely replace the Navigation Services with our own version if we think we have a better idea how to implement it.

There are many similar opportunities for Apple to isolate collections of capabilities into separate libraries, encourage application developers to make use of the new libraries, and allow users to replace those libraries with alternatives written by other developers. (Text Services should be foremost on everyone's mind.) This approach to system software development is similar, in principle, to the component nature of OpenDoc. Rather than have all OS operations dictated by Apple, users could choose to replace Apple's standard behaviors with alternatives that better suit their needs.

Now, I don't advocate that Apple try to turn the Mac OS into another OpenDoc. There are a variety of factors that contributed to the demise of OpenDoc, but there also were some worthwhile features of that technology. We should not throw them all away simply because OpenDoc failed. As long as Apple sticks with their current policy of improving the OS incrementally, they will successfully avoid the single biggest reason for the failure of OpenDoc, QuickDraw GX, PowerTalk and others. Apple has to ease us into using the new technologies one step at a time, and as the hardware advances to support them, that the size of the OS doubles with every release, rather than dump so much on us at once.

Most of all, I want Apple to open the entire OS to third party enhancements, but cleanly. Then I can buy or write my own innovations if I don't like what Apple is supplying.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Drop to GIF 1.28 - Drag-and-drop creatio...
Drag to GIF means zero-click movie-to-GIF conversion. Select a folder to watch and every movie saved or moved into that folder will be converted to an animated GIF. Features Dragging - Drag a movie... Read more
BetterTouchTool 3.158 - Customize multi-...
BetterTouchTool adds many new, fully customizable gestures to the Magic Mouse, Multi-Touch MacBook trackpad, and Magic Trackpad. These gestures are customizable: Magic Mouse: Pinch in / out (zoom)... Read more
NeoFinder 7.4.1 - Catalog your external...
NeoFinder (formerly CDFinder) rapidly organizes your data, either on external or internal disks, or any other volumes. It catalogs and manages all your data, so you stay in control of your data... Read more
Tunnelblick 3.8.0 - GUI for OpenVPN.
Tunnelblick is a free, open source graphic user interface for OpenVPN on OS X. It provides easy control of OpenVPN client and/or server connections. It comes as a ready-to-use application with all... Read more
Tweetbot 3 for Twitter 3.3.1 - Popular T...
Tweetbot is a full-featured OS X Twitter client with a lot of personality. Whether it's the meticulously-crafted interface, sounds and animation, or features like multiple timelines and column views... Read more
Monosnap 3.5.9 - Versatile screenshot ut...
Monosnap lets you capture screenshots, share files, and record video and .gifs. Features Capture Capture full screen, just part of the screen, or a selected window Make your crop area pixel... Read more
Monosnap 3.5.9 - Versatile screenshot ut...
Monosnap lets you capture screenshots, share files, and record video and .gifs. Features Capture Capture full screen, just part of the screen, or a selected window Make your crop area pixel... Read more
Tweetbot 3 for Twitter 3.3.1 - Popular T...
Tweetbot is a full-featured OS X Twitter client with a lot of personality. Whether it's the meticulously-crafted interface, sounds and animation, or features like multiple timelines and column views... Read more
Tunnelblick 3.8.0 - GUI for OpenVPN.
Tunnelblick is a free, open source graphic user interface for OpenVPN on OS X. It provides easy control of OpenVPN client and/or server connections. It comes as a ready-to-use application with all... Read more
Bookends 13.2.5 - Reference management a...
Bookends is a full-featured bibliography/reference and information-management system for students and professionals. Bookends uses the cloud to sync reference libraries on all the Macs you use.... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Void Tyrant guide - Tips and tricks for...
Void Tyrant continues to get a lot of play in these parts. Probably because the game is just so deep and varied. The next stop on our guide series for Void Tyrant is class-specific guides. First up is the Knight, as it’s the first class anyone has... | Read more »
Summon beasts and battle evil in epic re...
Imagine a tale of conlict between factions of good and evil, where rogueish heroes summon beasts to aid them in them in warfare and courageously battle dragons over fields of scorched earth and brimstone - that's exactly the essence of epic fantasy... | Read more »
Upcoming visual novel Arranged shines a...
If you’re in the market for a new type of visual novel designed to inform and make you think deeply about its subject matter, then Arranged by Kabuk Games could be exactly what you’re looking for. It’s a wholly unique take on marital traditions in... | Read more »
TEPPEN guide - The three best decks in T...
TEPPEN’s unique take on the collectible card game genre is exciting. It’s just over a week old, but that isn’t stopping lots of folks from speculating about the long-term viability of the game, as well as changes and additions that will happen over... | Read more »
Intergalactic puzzler Silly Memory serve...
Recently released matching puzzler Silly Memory is helping its fans with their intergalactic journeys this month with some very special offers on in-app purchases. In case you missed it, Silly Memory is the debut title of French based indie... | Read more »
TEPPEN guide - Tips and tricks for new p...
TEPPEN is a wild game that nobody asked for, but I’m sure glad it exists. Who would’ve thought that a CCG featuring Capcom characters could be so cool and weird? In case you’re not completely sure what TEPPEN is, make sure to check out our review... | Read more »
Dr. Mario World guide - Other games that...
We now live in a post-Dr. Mario World world, and I gotta say, things don’t feel too different. Nintendo continues to squirt out bad games on phones, causing all but the most stalwart fans of mobile games to question why they even bother... | Read more »
Strategy RPG Brown Dust introduces its b...
Epic turn-based RPG Brown Dust is set to turn 500 days old next week, and to celebrate, Neowiz has just unveiled its biggest and most exciting update yet, offering a host of new rewards, increased gacha rates, and a brand new feature that will... | Read more »
Dr. Mario World is yet another disappoin...
As soon as I booted up Dr. Mario World, I knew I wasn’t going to have fun with it. Nintendo’s record on phones thus far has been pretty spotty, with things trending downward as of late. [Read more] | Read more »
Retro Space Shooter P.3 is now available...
Shoot-em-ups tend to be a dime a dozen on the App Store, but every so often you come across one gem that aims to shake up the genre in a unique way. Developer Devjgame’s P.3 is the latest game seeking to do so this, working as a love letter to the... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

13″ 1.8GHz MacBook Air on sale again for only...
Amazon has the 2017 13″ 1.8GHz/128GB MacBook Air on sale today for only $749.99 shipped. That’s $250 off Apple’s original MSRP for this model and the cheapest MacBook Air available from any Apple... Read more
Apple’s $1489 clearance price on refurbished...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2018 13″ 2.3GHz 4-Core Touch Bar MacBook Pros available starting at $1489. Apple’s one-year warranty is included, shipping is free, and each MacBook has a new outer... Read more
New 2019 13″ 2.4GHz 4-Core MacBook Pros on sa...
Apple resellers B&H Photo and Amazon are offering the new 2019 13″ 2.4GHz 4-Core Touch Bar MacBook Pros for $150 off Apple’s MSRP. These are the same MacBook Pros sold by Apple in its retail and... Read more
B&H drops prices another $50 on clearance...
B&H Photo has dropped prices on clearance 2018 13″ MacBook Airs by a further $50 with models now available for $250 off Apple’s original MSRP. Overnight shipping, or expedited shipping, is free... Read more
Find the best sales & lowest prices on Ap...
Our Apple award-winning price trackers are the best place to look for the best sales and lowest prices on Apple gear. Scan our price trackers for the latest information on sales, bundles, and... Read more
Apple has clearance 2018 13″ MacBook Airs now...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2018 13″ MacBook Airs available starting at only $849. Each MacBook features a new outer case, comes with a standard Apple one-year warranty, and is shipped free. The... Read more
Save $400 on the 8-Core iMac Pro today at Ama...
Amazon has the base 8-core iMac Pro on sale today for $4599 including free shipping. Their price is $400 off Apple’s MSRP, and it’s the currently lowest price available for an iMac Pro. For the... Read more
Flash sale! New 11″ 1TB WiFi iPad Pros for th...
Amazon has the 11″ 1TB WiFi iPad Pro on sale today for only $1199.99 including free shipping. Their price is $350 off Apple’s MSRP for this model, and it’s the lowest price ever for a 1TB 11″ iPad... Read more
Weekend Deal: 2018 13″ MacBook Airs starting...
B&H Photo has clearance 2018 13″ MacBook Airs available starting at only $999 with all models now available for $200 off Apple’s original MSRP. Overnight shipping, or expedited shipping, is free... Read more
Apple has clearance 10.5″ iPad Pros available...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2017 10.5″ iPad Pros available starting at $469. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each iPad, outer shells are new, and shipping is free: – 64GB 10″ iPad Pro... Read more

Jobs Board

Best Buy *Apple* Computing Master - Best Bu...
**711495BR** **Job Title:** Best Buy Apple Computing Master **Job Category:** Store Associates **Location Number:** 000882-Waterfront-Store **Job Description:** The Read more
Best Buy *Apple* Computing Master - Best Bu...
**711597BR** **Job Title:** Best Buy Apple Computing Master **Job Category:** Sales **Location Number:** 000873-Colma CA-Store **Job Description:** **What does a Read more
Best Buy *Apple* Computing Master - Best Bu...
**711346BR** **Job Title:** Best Buy Apple Computing Master **Job Category:** Store Associates **Location Number:** 001095-Chesterfield-Store **Job Description:** Read more
Best Buy *Apple* Computing Master - Best Bu...
**704899BR** **Job Title:** Best Buy Apple Computing Master **Job Category:** Sales **Location Number:** 000135-Pleasant Hill-Store **Job Description:** **What does Read more
Best Buy *Apple* Computing Master - Best Bu...
**707083BR** **Job Title:** Best Buy Apple Computing Master **Job Category:** Sales **Location Number:** 000045-Rockford-Store **Job Description:** **What does a Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.