Mac OS X back in developers' affections

Eighteen months after its release, Apple's Mac OS X operating system is experiencing a groundswell of support from Kiwi software developers and tertiary institutions.

Eighteen months after its release, Apple’s Mac OS X operating system is experiencing a groundswell of support from Kiwi software developers and tertiary institutions.

John Holley, a lead developer at Auckland firm Arena Software, is particularly enthused about the OS’ open source underpinnings.

Mac OS X is based on Darwin, an open source, Unix-based foundation.

Arena is using OS X to develop Helium, an asset management suite for media that runs on Linux. Helium is designed to speed the production of advertising flyers through automation and re-use.

Arena’s development machines are Mac OS X desktops running off a Linux back end.

“The Mac comes with all the developers’ tools. With Mac OS and Linux OS you can deliver solutions to the world very simply and easily and cut development costs.”

Porting from Linux to Mac OS X was an overnight job, he says.

“We hardly see any difference between Mac OS X and Linux, and being able to show Unix on the same machine at the same time is phenomenal,” he says, referring to the Mac’s ability to simultaneously interface to both Unix and Mac OS without having to reboot. “You can’t do that on another platform.”

Holley, a former IS manager at Auckland University, says developers can show the commercial system live on their Mac Powerbooks to potential customers.

“The compelling thing for us is that Apple is using open source tools the same as Linux. Many of our guys are going back and forth between the two. It means we can offer this at a much lower cost and the software we’re developing has potential worldwide.

”Open source means it’s easy to deploy. We don’t have to worry about cumbersome binaries that we need to push out. We’re looking at going to Australia, the US, UK and Japan.”

Graham Prentice, national education manager tertiary for Apple reseller Renaissance, says he’s noticed a resurgence in interest from developers who had turned away from Apple.

“Eighteen months ago, when X first arrived, we had a lot of people keeping a watching brief. In the universities a number of developers had moved away from OS 9 because it didn’t have a strategic direction, but when Apple moved towards the Unix core they became interested.”

Another attraction is that the latest version of the Java 2 platform (J2SE v1.3) is preinstalled in every Mac that ships with Mac OS X.

“Mac OS X also has total support for Java so with those two significant things, developers are returning to the Apple platform,” says Prentice. “Over the past 18 months we had a lot of one-off sales but now with the new release of OS X.2 we’re seen quite a bit of market interest.”

Roger Thomas, technical manager for Waikato University’s maths and computing department, is seeing marked interest from university staff programming in Java.

“Apple went through dark times and a lot of people abandoned them. We’ve seen some academics make the jump back particularly those interested in Java. A couple of our research groups working on the digital library and machine learning are heavily involved in Java have made the move.”

Waikato has also rolled out 25 Mac OS workstations to students doing the new Bachelor of Computer Design and has installed a Mac OS X server.

Auckland University’s law school is also implementing a Mac OS X server and Otago University is evaluating the platform.

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