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     The year of 64-bit Carbon
    Filed under: — David @ 2:11 pm

    Apple announced this week that there will be no 64-bit version of Carbon in Mac OS X 10.6. This has, of course, triggered a storm of comments on the Carbon development mailing list. Lots of people are unhappy about the decision.

    For the non-technical readers: Carbon is essentially the part of Mac OS X that evolved from previous versions of the Mac OS. Many people have many years of knowledge and work invested in it and don’t want it to go away. Having a 64-bit version would make it easier to write Carbon applications that need to have large amounts of data in memory, such as very large image or movie files, or scientific applications that work with large data sets.

    Most software developers don’t need to write 64-bit applications, but what’s going on here is that leaving 64-bit Carbon out of Leopard sends a clear signal from Apple to developers that Carbon has no future.

    This upsets people for two reasons. One, as I mentioned, they want Carbon to stay, either because of the investment they’ve put into it or because they don’t like the alternative, Cocoa. The other is that a year ago, Apple said that 64-bit Carbon would be included in Leopard. As a result, many developers spent the past year getting their apps 64-bit ready according to the guidelines Apple gave - certain old Carbon technologies were excluded from the 64-bit version, so you had to switch to their modern replacements. Now they find out the past year was a big fat waste of time.

    Aside from the issue of broken promises, another commonly raised point is that Carbon is more similar to how things work on Windows, which makes it easier to write applications that run on Mac OS and Windows. Cocoa, Apple’s preferred alternative to Carbon, not only differs at the conceptual level, but it requires learning a new language - Objective-C.

    Now, Cocoa and Objective-C do have their advantages; that’s why Apple is pushing them. But the mere fact that they’re so different from the world of C++ complicates the situation and the development process. That’s not an attractive feature, and many developers as a result want nothing to do with Cocoa. I’m not that extreme, but I understand their complaints.

    To be honest, I personally don’t expect to be doing much Carbon development in the future. But that’s only because I’m changing jobs. My former coworkers back an Final Draft are still stuck with difficult and awkward questions of how to proceed with developing a Carbon application that needs new features on the outside while the inside struggles to keep up with the changes required by the evolution of Mac OS X (not to mention Windows).

    A recent post on the Carbon development mailing list revealed that the decision to yank 64-bit Carbon was not a technical one. It’s not so much that delivering it would be too hard; they just don’t want to. The merits of this decision and the future of Carbon have been debated for years, but this year Apple introduced a new factor: a broken promise. I think that’s the main thing that bugged me enough to write an 8-paragraph blog entry.

     Volley Wiki Moves
    Filed under: — David @ 1:23 pm

    SourceForge has just added a project wiki service, so I have moved the Volley Wiki there from it’s old home here at this site. I had originally tried putting it on SourceForge (using phpWiki at the time), but found it to be too slow. Now that the speed is better, and it’s a built-in service, I decided it would be better to move it over. It’s best to have everything in one place.

    It was a bit of a tedious process, since I had to convert the pages from one wiki syntax to another, and Wikispaces doesn’t have all the formatting features that Tikiwiki does, specifically definition lists and text boxes. Comments were lost, but there weren’t very many.

    The original vision for Volley was for the server to be self-contained, but it looks more and more like it would need to integrate with other web-based services, mainly because it would be easier to get people to use it that way. That involves a lot of stuff that I don’t know enough about, so there’s the chicken and egg problem where I need to get more people on the team, but the project isn’t mature enough to attract anyone. I imagine a lot of open source projects suffer from this.

     I like mine better
    Filed under: — David @ 2:05 pm

    Part of the “new Desktop” in Leopard is a new set of folder icons. They’re not shown very prominently on Apple’s web site yet, but from what I’ve seen, I don’t like them. They’re a little too dark, and the monochromatic badges don’t stand out enough. In particular, they’re harder to differentiate in list view. I think they really should bring back some color so that the things that make each folder icon unique can stand out more.

    The old Aqua folders didn’t quite sit well with me either because they don’t look like real folders. What folder is made of half transparent blue, and half ribbed white plastic? I assume Apple was trying to address this with the new icons.

    Of course, I’m not just tossing out complaints without contributing any suggestions or alternatives of my own. I did my Paper Folder icons quite a while ago as my own response to those Aqua folder issues, and I prefer mine to Leopard’s.

     WWDC 2007 - Keynote thoughts
    Filed under: — David @ 12:52 pm

    Of the 10 things on Steve’s list, the new Desktop (or rather, Dock and menu bar) and Finder are the only ones that are really new since last year. You might say iPhone apps is new, but people have already been talking about using existing web technologies for that. One person at my lunch table suggested that a big part of the motivation behind Safari for Windows is to encourage people to develop iPhone apps. I’ll continue to use Firefox though, mainly because of the extensions - particularly the ad-blocking ones.

    One intriguing note: he said the new menu bar “adapts itself” to your desktop picture, which seems to imply more than simple transparency. Or maybe it doesn’t and he was just trying to make it sound fancier than it is.

    I was happy to hear that they’re finally settling on one window style. It will be interesting to see how that plays out, and what will happen to the two styles of controls we have now - metal vs normal. Will the standard controls continue to have two variants, or will they automatically all use the same appearance now?

    Early on I was actually okay with the idea of metal windows, as long as they were in fact confined to apps that dealt with or simulated other electronic devices. But then they said “oh, and apps with sidebars too,” and things got silly. Plus they never solved the problem of how to make a metal window look inactive.

    As for the new Finder.. it’s just more iTunes-like. Not surprising, I suppose. It has the same sidebar, which I bet was developed in parallel with the iTunes version. I’m not a big fan of Cover Flow. I find it flashy and tedious to navigate.

    I think the most glaring non-announcement was iWork ‘07, though it could be argued that WWDC isn’t quite the place for it. Maybe there will be another press event for that in a couple of weeks. Or maybe iWork will skip ‘07 entirely. Maybe the iPhone sucked up those resources in addition to the ones that would have given us Leopard by now.

    Unfortunately it may be a little while before I get some good hands-on time with the new Leopard beta. I’m not eager to install it on my aging and slowing PowerBook, but I do hope to replace that soon with one of the new MacBook Pros. I’ve been looking forward to that for a while now.


    This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

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