TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Mac OS X Programming Secrets

Volume Number: 19 (2003)
Issue Number: 4
Column Tag: Mac OS X Programming Secrets

Mac OS X Programming Secrets

by Scott Knaster

    I am honored, privileged, and more than a little thrilled to welcome Scott Knaster to the fold here at MacTech. In the Mac programming universe, Scott is a legend, both for his sense of humor and for books like Macintosh Programming Secrets and How to Write Macintosh Software. While I was busy writing about C and the basics of the Mac Toolbox, Scott was taking folks to the next level, writing about off screen drawing, spinning cursors, VBL tasks, dialog filters, etc.

    And that's just what we're gonna do here. While Getting Started will focus on the basics, Mac OS X Programming Secrets will take you to the next level. And for those of you who have yet to experience Scott, trust me. You are in for a treat!

    Dave Mark

    Editor-in-Chief


Thanks, Dave, for that awesome introduction. I'll try mightily to live up to those high expectations. And now, let's get started. But how to begin?

[Option #1: the wacky two-liner.] Well, I haven't written anything about Mac programming since about 1990. So as I was saying...

[Option #2: the clueless.] Hi. I've been basically out of the Mac universe for the last 10 years. Did anything interesting happen? Is Apple still in business? Excuse me... the company is run by who? Mac OS is now based on what? Hahahahahahaha!!! You big kidder!

[Option #3: keeping it real.]

That's me: always with the joking around. But really, when I think about writing for MacTech, my whole MacLife (not the same as iLife) flashes before my eyes, and I ponder how I got started on the Mac, how I ended up back here again, and what happened in between.

Programming Is Great Fun

My story, dear reader, is one of extreme good fortune and a personality tic. The lucky part came back in 1984 when I managed to find a job in the developer support department of the Macintosh division at Apple. I knew a little about programming and was in love with working at Apple, but I had never seen anything like the Mac - of course, very few of us had.

On my first day, my boss, Cary Clark, showed me the professional Mac development environment of the era. It consisted of a Mac with 128K RAM, a Lisa connected to the Mac for compiling and building applications in Pascal, and an Apple III (or Apple ///, as we insisted on spelling it) used as a dumb terminal for talking to the object-code debugger. Yes, it took three-fourths of Apple's computer models just to say "Hello World" on an underpowered original Mac. I was in awe.

I spent the next 3 years helping developers get their apps running on those early Macs. Because I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, I learned a ton of cool stuff about Mac programming and debugging, like how to figure out what was on the stack, what really happened when heaps were compacted, and what caused system errors. Because lots of people were interested in learning these things, I wrote it all down in a couple of books, thus freeing my brain cells for important work, such as knowing it was Randy Van Warmer who sang the smash hit "I'd Really Love To See You Tonight".

Attentive readers will recall that way back a few paragraphs ago, I said it was luck and a personality tic that helped my career. The luck was finding myself in Mac developer support; the tic is that when I learn about cool new technology, like Mac programming, I just gotta tell other people about it. I can't stand keeping it to myself. This is a wonderful trait for a tech support guy and a writer.

Eventually, I got distracted by a shiny object or something, and I wandered away from the Mac for awhile. I wrote many charming but now-useless technical docs, first about Pink, one of Apple's several failed fix-the-Mac-OS crusades, and then about Magic Cap, a really wonderful OS and UI toolkit for personal communicators that just didn't catch on. Most surprising of all journeys, I ended up spending a number of happy years at Microsoft (yes, that Microsoft), at first working on Mac software, then writing books about Windows user interface guidelines, of all things.

New Things Happened

And then, Mac OS X sprang forth. A hypnotically pretty user interface, a foundation based on Unix (go figure), and lots of attention and cool new apps came with it. Apple's dark days had come to an end. Although I was making my living on that other platform, I was always drawn back to the Mac. When Apple started shipping Macs with OS X pre-installed in 2001, I bought an iBook and had a torrid affair with the new operating system. Although it wasn't ready for prime time then, you could tell that it had a great future - kind of how it felt using a Mac in 1984 or so. For the next two years, I always found time to keep up with OS X, messing around with development tools and generally having fun with all the new stuff Apple kept tossing our way.

When I said farewell to my employment at Microsoft (and my WinXP lifestyle) earlier this year, I fell down the OS X rabbit hole at full velocity. I found myself getting up early and staying up late, playing with all the toys: Project Builder, Terminal, Cocoa, Carbon, etc. Mac programming today is a surreal fusion of traditional Apple stuff and full-on Unix, and we haven't even begun to tap all the power that's in there. My goal in writing this column is to stay one step ahead, to show you something each month that you didn't know about before.

I find myself cursing Unixy things like folder permissions and command line syntax booboos, even while I enjoy trying to figure them out. Placing Unix under Aqua is a little like having a hood on my car. Mostly I just drive the car, but once in a while I like to open the hood to learn about or tweak something inside. Sometimes that's frustrating, but it's always educational.

I'm past the point where operating systems are a religion with me. I lived happily on last millennium's Mac OS for a long time, Windows for a few years, and now it's Mac OS X. There are things I like and dislike about each of them. I enjoy having all of them around, because they're fun to delve into and they all help me get work done. Although it's far from perfect, OS X might be my favorite OS ever because there's just so much stuff to mess with. And because after all these years, I find that my brain is still tuned to Apple's frequency: I keep coming back to Apple products because they usually feel right to me.

There Is Plenty To Do

So the truth is this column is my excuse to keep diving into OS X programming and then inflicting the results upon you, dear reader, because I just can't keep it to myself. There's so much to write about: great tools, cool tricks with frameworks, little-known APIs, debugging tips, odd and fun nooks in the system. Everything is new again, and we're all bozos on this bus. I want to write about all of it at once, but unfortunately the laws of physics prohibit this, so I'll do it one column per issue.

Speaking selfishly, I know I'm going to have a great time, and I hope you find some of it useful or amusing, because that would please the publisher and editors of MacTech. So thanks for coming along.

And I now that I think of it, it was England Dan & John Ford Coley who sang the smash hit "I'd Really Love To See You Tonight". I guess I better start writing more stuff down to free up brain space.


Scott Knaster has been writing about Macs for as long as there have been Macs. Scott's books How To Write Macintosh Software and Macintosh Programming Secrets were required reading for Mac programmers for more than a decade. Scott wrote developer books for General Magic and worked on Mac software for Microsoft. Scott's books have been translated into Japanese and Pascal. Scott has every issue of Mad magazine, which explains a lot.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Tunnelblick 3.8.2a - 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
calibre 4.17.0 - Complete e-book library...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital librarian... Read more
MacPilot 11.1.4 - $15.96
MacPilot gives you the power of UNIX and the simplicity of Macintosh, which means a phenomenal amount of untapped power in your hands! Use MacPilot to unlock over 1,200 features, and access them all... Read more
Transmission 3.00 - Popular BitTorrent c...
Transmission is a fast, easy, and free multi-platform BitTorrent client. Transmission sets initial preferences so things "just work", while advanced features like watch directories, bad peer blocking... Read more
Doom 3 1.3.1 - First-person shooter acti...
A massive demonic invasion has overwhelmed the Union Aerospace Corporation's (UAC) Mars Research Facility, leaving only chaos and horror in its wake. As one of only a few survivors, you must fight... Read more
Box Sync 4.0.8004 - Online synchronizati...
Box Sync gives you a hard-drive in the Cloud for online storage. Note: You must first sign up to use Box. What if the files you need are on your laptop -- but you're on the road with your iPhone? No... Read more
LibreOffice 6.4.4.2 - Free, open-source...
LibreOffice is an office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing tool) compatible with other major office suites. The Document Foundation is coordinating development and... Read more
Day One 4.14 - Maintain a daily journal.
Day One is an easy, great-looking way to use a journal / diary / text-logging application. Day One is well designed and extremely focused to encourage you to write more through quick Menu Bar entry,... Read more
MenuMeters 2.0.7 - CPU, memory, disk, an...
MenuMeters is a set of CPU, memory, disk, and network monitoring tools for Mac OS X. Although there are numerous other programs which do the same thing, none had quite the feature set I was looking... Read more
War Thunder 1.97.2.19 - Multiplayer war...
In War Thunder, aircraft, attack helicopters, ground forces and naval ships collaborate in realistic competitive battles. You can choose from over 1,500 vehicles and an extensive variety of combat... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

SINoALICE, Yoko Taro and Pokelabo's...
Yoko Taro and developer Pokelabo's SINoALICE has now opened for pre-registration over on the App Store. It's already amassed 1.5 million Android pre-registrations, and it's currently slated to launch on July 1st. [Read more] | Read more »
Masketeers: Idle Has Fallen's lates...
Masketeers: Idle Has Fallen is the latest endeavour from Appxplore, the folks behind Crab War, Thor: War of Tapnarok and Light A Way. It's an idle RPG that's currently available for Android in Early Access and will head to iOS at a later date. [... | Read more »
Evil Hunter Tycoon celebrates 2 million...
Evil Hunter Tycoon has proved to be quite the hit since launching back in March, with its most recent milestone being 2 million downloads. To celebrate the achievement, developer Super Planet has released a new updated called Darkness' Front Yard... | Read more »
Peak's Edge is an intriguing roguel...
Peak's Edge is an upcoming roguelike puzzle game from developer Kenny Sun that's heading for both iOS and Android on June 4th as a free-to-play title. It will see players rolling a pyramid shape through a variety of different levels. [Read more] | Read more »
Clash Royale: The Road to Legendary Aren...
Supercell recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and their best title, Clash Royale, is as good as it's ever been. Even for lapsed players, returning to the game is as easy as can be. If you want to join us in picking the game back up, we've put... | Read more »
The Magic Gladiator class arrives in MU...
The Magic Gladiator class is now available in MU Origin 2 following the most recent patch. It also marks the start of Abyss Season 11 and the introduction of Couple Skills and Couple Dungeons. [Read more] | Read more »
The 5 Best Racing Games
With KartRider Rush+ making a splash this past week, we figured it was high time we updated our list of the best mobile racing games out there. From realistic racing sims to futuristic arcade racers (and even racing management games!), check out... | Read more »
KartRider Rush+ Guide - Tips for new rac...
KartRider Rush+ continues to be a surprisingly refreshing and fun kart racer that's entirely free-to-play. The main reason for this is just how high its skill ceiling is. Check out the video above if you're curious to know what top level play looks... | Read more »
KartRider Rush+ might be good, actually?
It's hard to find good racing games on mobile. Most of them are free-to-play, and free-to-play racers generally suck. Even Nintendo couldn't put together a competent Mario Kart game, opting instead for a weird score chaser that resembles--but feels... | Read more »
LifeAfter, NetEase's popular surviv...
A new map will be making its way into NetEase's popular survival game LifeAfter. The map is set to arrive on May 28th and will introduce a volcano that's teetering on the verge of eruption, bringing a host of added challenges to the game. [Read... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple restocks 2019 MacBook Airs starting at...
Apple has clearance, Certified Refurbished, 2019 13″ MacBook Airs available again starting at $779. Each MacBook features a new outer case, comes with a standard Apple one-year warranty, and is... Read more
Apple restocks clearance Mac minis for only $...
Apple has restocked Certified Refurbished 2018 4-Core Mac minis for only $599. Each mini comes with a new outer case plus a standard Apple one-year warranty. Shipping is free: – 3.6GHz Quad-Core... Read more
Apple’s new 2020 13″ MacBook Airs on sale for...
B&H Photo has Apple’s new 2020 13″ 4-Core and 6-Core MacBook Airs on sale today for $50-$100 off Apple’s MSRP, starting at $949. Expedited shipping is free to many addresses in the US. The... Read more
B&H continues to offer clearance 2019 13″...
B&H Photo has clearance 2019 13″ 4-Core MacBook Pros available for up to $300 off Apple’s original MSRP, with prices starting at $1149. Expedited shipping is free to many addresses in the US. B... Read more
Memorial Day Weekend Sale: Take $300 off thes...
Apple resellers are offering $300 discounts on select 16″ MacBook Pros as part of their Memorial Day Weekend 2020 sales. Prices start at $2099: – 16″ 2.6GHz 6-Core Space Gray MacBook Pro: $2099 at... Read more
Best Memorial Day Weekend 2020 Apple AirPods...
Apple resellers are offering discounts ranging up to $50 off MSRP on AirPods as part of their Memorial Day Weekend 2020 sales. These are the best deals today on various AirPods models. See our... Read more
Memorial Day Weekend Sale: 10″ Apple iPads fo...
Amazon is offering new 10.2″ iPads for $80-$100 off Apple’s MSRP as part of their Memorial Day Weekend 2020 sale, with prices starting at only $249. These are the same iPads sold by Apple in their... Read more
Memorial Day Weekend Sale: 2020 Apple iPhone...
Sprint is offering Apple’s new 2020 64GB iPhone SE for $0 per month for 18 months as part of their Memorial Day Weekend 2020 sale. New line of service and trade-in required. Offer is valid from 5/22/... Read more
Amazon’s popular $100 Apple Watch Series 5 di...
Amazon has Apple Watch Series 5 GPS + Cellular models on sale for up to $100 off Apple’s MSRP today. Shipping is free. These are the same Apple Watch models sold by Apple in their retail and online... Read more
2020 13″ 4-Core MacBook Air on sale for $949,...
Apple reseller Adorama has the new 2020 13″ 1.1GHz 4-Core Space Gray MacBook Air on sale today for $949 shipped. Their price is $50 off Apple’s MSRP, and it’s the lowest price currently available for... Read more

Jobs Board

Essbase Developer - *Apple* - Theorem, LLC...
Job Summary Apple is seeking an experienced, detail-minded Essbase developer to join our worldwide business development and strategy team. If you are someone who Read more
Senior Software Engineer @ *Apple* - Theore...
Job Summary Apple is looking for a seasoned senior software engineer to join our worldwide business development and strategy team. This is an opportunity to lead a Read more
Cub Foods - *Apple* Valley - Now Hiring Par...
Cub Foods - Apple Valley - Now Hiring Part Time! United States of America, Minnesota, Apple Valley Retail Operations Post Date May 18, 2020 Requisition # 119230 Read more
Senior Practice Manager - *Apple* Hill Eye...
Senior Practice Manager - Apple Hill Eye Center Tracking Code 61713 Job Description Schedule & Location: Full Time Days Apple Hill Medical Center General Read more
Retail Sales Consultant - *Apple* Valley -...
Retail Sales Consultant - Apple Valley - $500 Hiring Bonus Apply Now...12-30-2019 Address : 7875 150th St W Location : Apple Valley, MN US Req # : 272753BR Job Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.