Solipsism Gradient

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Browsing Posts published in December, 2005

Resolutions for 2006

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Next year, I (hopefully) will…

– Make backups. At least once a year. Even of things that are supposed to be backed up already.

– Make sure the backups are readable on a different machine.

– Make local copies of things instead of trusting that the download will be available “forever”.

– Read the fine print on all insurance policies.

– Trust first impressions.

– Distrust builders and contractors.

– Rebuild this site.

– Post at least once a day.

– Be able to get back to Cocoa programming…

Re: End of an era

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Posted by Rafael Fischmann:
“Los Angeles Times” fecha edição nacional

da Ansa, em Nova York

Depois de 13 anos o jonal “Los Angeles Times” fechará, na próxima semana, sua edição nacional. A decisão de interromper a distribuição na costa leste dos Estados Unidos foi feita para poupar custos.

Além disso, segundo seus administradores, considera o fato de que o jornal é “amplamente lido pela internet”.

“No decorrer do último ano, percebemos que nosso público da costa leste lê o jornal na web”, disse David Garcia, porta-voz do “Los Angeles Times”, observando que o fim da edição nacional será compensado por um aumento da dedicação ao site do jornal na internet (www.latimes.com).

Segundo Garcia, o veículo também muda “para dar mais luz à cobertura de Washington, que em nossa opinião é a melhor em toda a América”.

O fim da edição nacional coincide com uma fase de corte de custos no prestigiado jornal, que recentemente demitiu 85 jornalistas.

A few extra comments on the Dharma/Yellow Box rumor. By the way, Wil Shipley has also weighed in with similar reasons against a YB revival:

Seriously, people. Apple doesn’t WANT your current Intel machine to run Mac OS X software. If it could, they wouldn’t be able to sell you a new machine in June of 2006. Trace the dollars! How would Apple profit from this?

It’s been demonstrated (by the previous Yellow Box) that big developers won’t just write their software once for Yellow Box and then “call it good” on Windows. Hell, Adobe can hardly be convinced to come out of the CFM closet, much less dump their Windows codebase in favor of a Cocoa one.

I agree that for small developers YB might, just possibly, be an alternative way to write new cross-platform applications, even with all the juggling they’d have to do to accomodate platform-specific stuff. There are some cross-platform frameworks around, but I personally don’t know any compelling small apps that use them – then again, I don’t use Windows myself on a regular basis, and when I have to, I just use the included apps.

Still, I can’t see Apple reviving YB just to help small developers break into the Windows market. There’s only one substantial cross-platform framework they still support – QuickTime – and there their motives are very different.

On the other hand, Apple has been known to invest into cross-platform frameworks strictly for their own use; for instance, iTunes on Windows certainly uses some in-house Carbon compatibility layer, as well as parts of QuickTime. Should Apple decide to rewrite iTunes in Cocoa on both platforms, some in-house version of YB would certainly come in handy; the same would apply if Apple decided to port some other major app to Windows – Safari is often cited as a candidate for that.

In fact, since Apple admitted to keeping successive versions of Mac OS X for Intel alive in the labs all these years, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they still were keeping the Yellow Box around too. But going from using it in-house to releasing a supported version to the outside world is too unlikely a step, at least IMHO.

An amazing bit of rumor has surfaced recently: Apple’s “Yellow Box” is supposed to be coming back from the dead, under the codename “Dharma“.

The idea seems to be that writing to a “pure Cocoa” API would enable software to be compiled, unchanged, for both Mac OS X and Windows. Or it could even be published as a universal binary containing both versions.

Indeed, the first aspect was the original idea when the Yellow Box was first published in 1997, when Apple bought NeXT (or vice-versa). Based on OpenStep, both Cocoa and the Yellow Box would have the same API and support programs running on both platforms. The Yellow Box was even included with Rhapsody (later Mac OS X server), although I think actual deployment licenses were sold separately. WebObjects (based on Objective-C) and EnterpriseObjects (ditto) used the same multiplatform philosophy.

However, at the 2000 WWDC Apple backed away from the whole thing. EO was discontinued amidst much weeping and wailing from its devotees, WO was converted to Java, and the Yellow Box was quietly dropped without much explanation.

At the time the reasons were quite unclear, but in hindsight some justifications can be seen. In particular, doing a successful multiplatform technology has turned out to be much more difficult than most people believed at the time; especially as Windows, not being under Apple’s control, would have been a difficult moving target anyway.

Personally I think that, retrospectively, dropping EO and moving WO to Java were mistaken decisions; keeping them both alive using Objective-C and Mac-only would have been prudent. However, the adoption of Cocoa turned out to be much slower than anyone would have thought, and as major companies like Microsoft, Adobe and Macromedia stayed with Carbon, any actual Yellow Box usage would have been restricted to smaller software houses or ISVs – for which the $3000 for 10 seats licensing terms would have been too expensive anyway.

Apple deftly turned away from the idea of Carbon as a short-term transition technology and instead promoted Carbon and Cocoa as equal-strength APIs whose capabilities are converging over time. Now here is an aspect which the recent rumormongers – not being developers – have not thought of. Both NeXTSTEP and OpenStep were the lowest-level API for application programs, but this is not true of Cocoa. The multiple layering of technologies and APIs on Mac OS X means that Cocoa can’t do many things that are possible in other APIs; meaning, in practice, that any reasonably complex software must use a mixture of technologies. My own XRay, for instance, even though it’s nominally a Cocoa program, also calls BSD APIs to handle users, groups, and permissions, as well as Carbon APIs to access many aspects of the file system.

Therefore, were the Yellow Box magically resurrected, programs written for a “pure Cocoa” API would theoretically run on it – but few, if any, existing Cocoa applications can afford to be so pure. The current Cocoa framework would have to be extended quite a lot, and Yellow Box prices would have to be lowered drastically – perhaps even to zero – before any but a handful of software companies would be interested. And for what? To allow interesting applications for Mac OS X also to run on Windows, reducing incentives for users to switch? Sounds extremely unlikely to me…

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