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[ccp4bb]: MacOSX (fwd)

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To all those interested in the MacOSX material,

Drawing on various questions/answers/comments on the ccp4bb over the
past couple of days, an informed word or two from an experienced
Unix/NeXTStep sysadmin friend of mine ...


* Dr Renos Savva            *
* School of Crystallography *
* Birkbeck College          *
* University of London      *
* Malet Street WC1E 7HX     *
* UK                        *


} Here's something worth keeping an eye on: MacOSX, due out this summer,
} apparently has a true Unix (FreeBSD-based) kernal.

It actually has a Mach microkernel; but it does have a BSD layer on top of  
that.  It is *definitely* worth keeping an eye on if you're the kind of  
person who wants the power of Unix but the ease-of-use and sophisticated  
applications of a consumer O/S.  Indeed, its underlying object-oriented  
technology gives it the potential for greater ease-of-use and sophistication  
than any existing O/S.

} I've heard very good
} things about FreeBSD from several groups ... some think it's better than
} Linux for cluster computing.

*BSD [* = "Free", "Net", "Open"] systems, do have a reputation for better  
network performance and also for better security than Linux.  In most  
respects, however, Linux and *BSD can be considered to be equivalent.

} Compiling Linux apps under FreeBSD should be
} easy (can anyone comment on this?).

Most command-line and X11 programs that can be compiled under Linux will  
recompile under *BSD without difficulty.  It is often a function of the  
compiler (which on both systems is usually GNU cc) and the available  
libraries (which are also typically the same open source ones on both  

} I have not been able to understand from the Apple web site if one will
} be able to easily access the unix underpinnings of MacOSX (like opening a
} shell window).

Yes, absolutely.

Apple may make direct Unix access an optional package when installing OS X,  
and/or may put the command-line application in a less obvious place to reduce  
the chance that a novice would accidentally launch it, but it will  
definitely be there.

} At first I thought that should be obvious, but if you read
} carefully, they don't really stress the Unix side at all.  Just their
} interface.

Advertising the Unix command line isn't something they want to do too much  
in case their traditional customers get worried.  Their goal is to design OS  
X so that an ordinary user need never know anything about Unix, but to keep  
it fully available to those that need/want it.

} If they do produce a fully functional/accessible unix system on a
} G4 that has drivers for all the new interfaces (eg firewire, dvd, etc),
} then this will be a big step above linuxppc, where support for "fancy"
} things like dvd is lacking.  It will even have an edge over Intel Linux,
} since even there support for firewire is only in its infancy.

Mac OS X will be *the* Mac OS from 2001 onwards (Steve Jobs said it would be  
bundled with all new Macs from next January).  By the time it is the default  
Mac OS (which could slip a few months past Jan 2001) it must therefore  
provide full support for all "fancy" peripherals and protocols.

} And if (a very big "if") Apple optimizes compilers for the G4, that would
} be even better in terms of number crunching....

GNU cc (now under the direction of the egcs people  
http://www.gnu.org/software/gcc/gcc.html), will be the bundled compiler for  
OS X.  It is rather likely that Apple will provide optimisation options for  
the Altivec vector processor in the G4.

} A friend of mine has been working with the pre-release version of MacOSX
} now for some time. He claims he can pop open a window and get a Unix
} prompt.  He's a long-time mac programmer and loves the new system but I
} don't know how familiar with Unix he is. He thinks that Apple is not
} saying much about the Unix base, because they don't want to upset their
} current users.

That's absolutely correct.

} In spite of the recent official announcement, I suspect
} that most developers may still be under non-disclosure agreement and can't
} talk freely about certain aspects,

That is correct; however, in practice the NDA mainly relates to the Aqua GUI  
(since Apple have released into the public domain all the underlying  
components of OS X as the "Darwin project":  
http://www.publicsource.apple.com/projects/darwin/ ).  Even so, there seem to  
be plenty of people out there who disregarded NDA's (eg. http://xappeal.org/  
and http://www.macosrumors.com/).

Others seem to have been allowed to publish a certin amount eg.  
(For another, better informed, article from the same publication: see

} It's running on the Mach microkernel, as NeXTStep did (but the microkernel
} in OS X is pretty heavily modified relative to the one used in NeXTStep).

In many ways, OS X is simply a heavily updated version of NEXTSTEP.

} None of the common Unix systems on the x86 side runs on Mach.  If OS X
} holds to the pattern of Mac OS X Server, I would expect most of the BSD
} stuff to be from NetBSD.

I believe most of Mac OS X's BSD layer comes from FreeBSD, but there's also  
stuff from both Open and Net BSD (as well as other open source projects).

} FreeBSD can run x86 Linux binaries directly, so there's no problem there,
} but I'd hesitate to suggest that this is an appropriate analogy for Mac OS
} X.

OS X will probably never run x86 Linux binaries, though it may at some  
future time be able to run LinuxPPC binaries.  In other respects, OS X will  
be "just another Unix" as far as command line programs go.  It is NOT an X11  
system, though, so for X-windows applications you'll be in the same situation  
as you are with NT or MacOS (ie. you'll need to run an X11 application akin  
to eXceed).