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Wish list of for Open Source + Apple

Computers and Cigars

Apple announced their open source efforts last Monday, releasing Mac OS Forge. Which was funny at the time: in my pre-coffee morning haze I was day-dreaming a conversation with Steve Jobs where RedMonk told him that Apple should get more involved with open source. “Are you crazy?!” he responded, “Why would I give away what I can sell? Next thing you’ll be telling me we should make it easy for people to dump Apple.”

Clearly, I can’t day-dream accurately without coffee. The whole train of fantasy was kicked off by my frustration with using proprietary storage instead of standard mboxes, and the resulting annoyance of having to use Thunderbird to feel “safe” after The OS X Defectors freaked me out.

Loosening the lips…if only a tad

My view of Apple is that they’re tight-lipped and don’t collaborate much with the open source community I know. So, it’s tentatively encouraging to see that they’re working with OpenDarwin. Also, as Steve will hopefully comment on more, it’s cool to see that XCode 3.0 will include DTrace.

Overall, I think it’s great, and I applaud choosing the Apache license, avoiding license NIH. Mr. jjb has a good “yuh! post” on the topic, and as others have pointed out, Apple gets awesome-points for using trac.

The OSS Wish-list

Here’s a couple of things I’d like to see in open source Apple-land:

  • Establish the standard package management framework for OS X. While managing and installing user apps is generally easy (copy an icon, delete an icon), when it comes to developer and more *nix-y things, it’s not so good. For example, I’ve installed fink, darwin ports, MySQL, rails, emacs, and numerous other things. I really have no idea how to uninstall them; nor have I really dug around that much to find out. Steve has written up plenty of posts on why package management is a must for any operating system. And, as Tim Bray put it: “apt-get is just so unreasonably fucking great.”
  • As my aside about switching to ThunderBird indicates, I’m concerned about the closed nature of Open sourcing it would be fantastic, but at the very least I’d like it use standard mboxes to assuage my fears of loosing my piles of email in a roach motel. Truth be told, after using ThunderBird for about two weeks, I’d much rather use I’d switch back in a heart-beat if I knew I had the freedom to leave. As it stands, I’m gunning for ThunderBird to catch up with the usability and native OS X integration (like with of
  • Open up the “back end” of many Apple apps, .Mac. I’d like use many of the .Mac features on my own hosted system or someone else’s. The thing is, I want to use the features that .Mac has, but I don’t want to pay for yet another service. Instead, I’d like to just host it, or parts of it, myself on my TextDrive or other hosting account.
  • To be blunt, I don’t “get” why Apple has Safari instead of just working with and supporting FireFox. I’m not being dismissive of the Safari team’s efforts, but as a user and developer, I would much rather there be less browsers than more. Safari is quite beautiful, it’s true…but I feel like the greater good for the community would be merging those efforts into FireFox instead of forking The Browser on OS X into Safari and FireFox.
  • As Steve and I mention in this week’s RedMonk Radio podcast(s), open sourcing hardware drivers is beneficial to the Linux community. While Apple might scoff at the idea of making it easier to run something other than OS X on Apple hardware, my feel is: hey, you’re still selling the hardware…better than giving up the Cadillac-laptop category to Lenovo.

A disclaimer to all of this is that I’m embarrassingly uninformed on Apple’s open source efforts and reputation…wouldn’t it be nice if Apple helped us out a bit with regular briefings ;> The fellas over at The Linux Action Podcast have a much better handle on the background for all this, including the WTF-fact that you can’t run the kernel.

Disclaimer: Sun is a client.

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5 Responses

  1. I have to agree about the Safari/Firefox. I still use Safari though, because Firefox disables the built-in Ctrl-Meta-D hover over spell, and has it's own weird dictionary thang in the new version. Perhaps if Apple got behind it…
    I have to disagree with your "closed nature of" There are plenty of free programs to convert Mail's "closed" formats to more standard formats. What's the problem? As long as one can perform this conversion, there is no problem. Here's one, and gasp, it's from Apple:

  2. I'm glad to hear that someone agrees on the FireFox/Safari thing. It felt like I was going out on a limb with that one 😉
    I used Safari occasionally myself. I have the fonts jacked up quite high in FireFox, and it screws sites up that don't design their pages accordingly. So, I'll open up Safari for those sites.
    As per sure, there are converters. I used just the one you linked to to switch over. Rationally, that should be fine, but it still annoys me. I tend to take a purist/high paranoia stance when it comes to these things (at least, I'd like to think I do), so I will admit that I'm being over-the-top on that topic.
    Nonetheless, my personal preference (and those of the other Apple-to-Ubuntu defectors) is to have avoid the conversion all together and just use the standards. A large part of it is from The Pragmatic Programmer notion of using plain text (or standard formats) as to manage the long-term risk of not being able to access proprietary formats in the distant future.
    All that said — and aren't I a horrible flip-flopper? — I'm seriously consider switching back to ThunderBird just isn't cutting it for search, multiple boxes, AddressBook integration, and over-all use.

  3. Why not host your mail on an IMAP server? IMAP seems like a "safe" standard which many mail clients support?

  4. Yup, storing everything on the server (via IMAP or POP) is probably good enough as well.
    From the feedback I've gotten on the topic, I can see that it's a hot topic 😉 Also, as an ironic aside to the whole thing, I switched back to using…but that's for another post 😉

Continuing the Discussion

  1. RedMonk Radio Episode 25 – Apple’s Open Source, Integrating Innovation Elsewhere, FileNet, IBM and Verticals, Linux Drivers

    In this episode Steve O’Grady and Coté talk about Apple’s recent open source efforts, FileNet and IBM, IBM getting closer to the end user, and the frustration with Linux drivers. You can download the episode by clicking here. Or subscribe…