forward thinking about the UI

Liam Proven lproven at
Tue Nov 24 14:44:00 GMT 2009

On Tue, Nov 24, 2009 at 1:09 PM, Michael Haney <thezorch at> wrote:
> On Tue, Nov 24, 2009 at 7:21 AM, Liam Proven <lproven at> wrote:
>>> On Tue, Nov 24, 2009 at 11:14 AM, Michael Haney <thezorch at> wrote:
>>> I should have said some Mac OS X technologies were "inspired" by BeOS.
>> Again, such as?
> I'll need to look it up or ask my friend who's something of a Mac
> expert, he would likely know for certain.
>>>  There was a book that detailed a lot of this but I can't remember the
>>> title.  It gave the history the Macintosh computers from their first
>>> incarnation to the first Intel-based Mac OS X systems.  Its where I
>>> learned Steve Jobs had a hand in developing NeXTstep before returning
>>> to Apple.  BeOS was considered before NeXTstep was if I remember
>>> correctly.
>> It doesn't sound like your book was very accurate, I'm afraid. Or
>> perhaps you just misremember it! :¬)
> That's probably it.  I read it some time ago at a library so you're
> probably right.
>> Apple's then CEO Gil Amelio was considering buying former Apple VP
>> Jean-Louis Gassée's company Be, for BeOS, *or* Apple co-founder Steve
>> Jobs' company NeXT Computer, for OpenStep, the successor to NeXTstep.
>> They went with NeXT. BeOS was excellent - small, fast, efficient,
>> modern, streamlined, and ran on Apple kit. The company was small, with
>> some excellent engineers. The snag is, Gassé wanted a lot more for it
>> than Apple was offering.
>> NeXT was a lot anyway - it was doing better and had some big names,
>> including several people who worked on the Mac in the early days, and,
>> of course, Jobs. Its OS was also beautiful, sophisticated & very
>> hi-tech. It offered 2 major advantages: 1, getting Steve Jobs back,
>> and 2, one of the great strengths of NeXTstep was its world-class
>> industry-leading development tools. Be had nothing to rival them.
> I read that about NeXTstep in PCMag a few years ago that NeXT's
> development tools were superb.
>> Amelio went with NeXT. If the Mac had to move to a new OS, then all
>> Mac developers would have to learn to code for the new OS. Mac devs
>> were pretty wedded to their platform, as were Mac users. And
>> transitioning to a whole new OS, Apple /really/ needed to get the devs
>> on board.
>> Classic MacOS's dev tools were nothing special and quite hard work.
>> Getting 'em to move to NeXTstep would be easier as NeXT's dev tools
>> were almost universally recognised as among the best in the industry.
>> So that's what Amelio did, and history has proved him right.
> I agree.  Mac OS X isn't perfect, my friend complains all the time
> that his eSATA and 3G Wireless Expresscards crash eventually after
> being using for a long time, but compared to say Windows its better
> performance wise and battery life.  Running Mac OS X my friend older
> MBP get about 4 hours on a fully charged battery, but only 2 hours
> running Windows XP Pro with minimal software in the background (just
> anti-virus and firewall) and only the most essential Services
> activated.  He primarily uses Windows on his Mac to play Final Fantasy
> XI.
>> Technologically: Mac OS X is not really BSD underneath, no.Many
>> Free-S/W types have seized on this because it's a simplification they
>> understand and like but it is inaccurate.
>> NeXTstep was built on 3 main technologies:
>>  - the Mach microkernel from Carnegie-Mellon University
>>  - part of BSD UNIX - the 4.4-Lite edition released from the
>> University of California at Berkeley - but *not* the kernel
>>  - the display subsystem, written entirely from scratch by NeXT, based
>> around Display PostScript based on Adobe's PostScript page description
>> language
>> Apple took this and updated it.
>> - Mach 2 was replaced with Mach 3
>> - the BSD 4.4 userland was updated with a lot of code from FreeBSD
>> - Display PostScript was replaced with Quartz, based instead around
>> the PDF page description language - which is in essence a simpler,
>> cleaner, more open version of PostScript aimed at screen rendering
>> But it is a mistake to say that Mac OS X is BSD underneath, even
>> though a lot of ignorant Linuxites say it because they don't know
>> their history, don't know anything about Mach and don't know what a
>> userland is.
>> Many supercars have engines in licensed or bought from Ford or Audi or
>> some other consumer car maker; it does not make a €200,000 Kônigsegg a
>> Ford.
>> The Mac OS X kernel is called xnu. It is based on the Mach 3.0
>> microkernel from CMU with a big in-kernel Unix-compatibility module
>> which is derived from FreeBSD. Above this is a userland, mainly
>> derived from FreeBSD as well.
>> This does not mean that Mac OS X is a form of BSD; it is not. It uses
>> a different kernel, a different config file system and a different
>> display layer.
>> But Mac OS X is the latest version of OpenStep which was the latest
>> version of NeXTstep. Everything in Mac OS X is based on NeXT
>> technologies, pretty much - it inherits very little from classic
>> MacOS. A descendant of the HFS+ filesystem and a completely rewritten
>> Quicktime are about the only significant survivors. The desktop &
>> "Finder" was rewritten to look more like a classic Mac, with desktop
>> icons, nested folders, aliases, a global menu bar, etc. - but it's
>> NeXT's Workspace Manager with a facelift, it shares no code with the
>> classic MacOS Finder.
>> Most of Apple's other technological frameworks - OpenTransport,
>> OpenDoc, Input Sprockets, QuickDraw, CyberDog, etc. - are all gone.
>> Even Apple network protocols like AppleTalk are deprecated and
>> disappearing now.
> That same friend often mentions the Mach kernel so I see the
> correlation.  Well, you learn something everyday I guess.
>> BeOS, on the other hand, had no input into OS X at all that I am aware
>> of. When Apple did not buy Be, that sealed the smaller company's doom.
>> Damned shame, but these things happen.
>> A final version of BeOS 6 did hit the market as Zeta, which changed
>> hands a couple of times then disappeared. A ground-up open-source
>> reimplementation called Haiku is getting some interest now as it
>> approaches version 1.0.
>> Most of the Be engineers ended up at Palm, whose S/W division was spun
>> off as PalmSource and later bought by Access Linux Solutions in China.
>> PalmSource used them and the tech to produce PalmOS 6.0, a very clever
>> new product - looked like classic PalmOS, ran PalmOS apps, but unlike
>> PalmOS, was fully multitasking, with rich colour and multimedia
>> support and was Internet-aware and -capable. Alas, no H/W vendors
>> licensed it and it died.
>> ALP threw away the Be code, rewrote another new PalmOS, based around
>> Linux instead, but although very clever - it looked like PalmOS & ran
>> its apps - it was too little too late. Palm kept flogging the
>> original, 68000-native, non-multitasking PalmOS 5 'til its all-new,
>> radically-different, non-backwardly-compatible, Internet-centric
>> Linux-based WebOS was ready for the new Prê phones.
>> The Prê is the iPhone's only really serious rival at the moment - both
>> are significantly ahead of Google's Android - so Palm may yet win its
>> gamble.
>> Be, BeOS and its technologies and code are dead and gone, though.
>> Haiku - which shares no code, but looks & works similarly - are the
>> only descendants.
> I've seen Haiku and read a few reviews praising the development
> project's efforts.  The original BeOS was praised for its multimedia
> capabilities back in the day.  Its nice to see that its making
> something of a comeback though in a different form.


>  Much like OS/2
> Warp which was brought back to life by an open source group.

Not as far as I know it wasn't, no. There have been proposals &
efforts but nothing that has borne any actual real fruit.

Serenity Systems offers the rather expensive eComStation, which is
essentially an updated OS/2 Warp 4.5. I've tried it, briefly. It is
OS/2, but poor old OS/2 is just ridiculously past-it by modern
standards, alas.

I was a keen OS/2 user in the early 1990s. I gave up when I couldn't
get OS/2 3 to drive my screen or sound hardware in my laptop - my only
PC back then - whereas a late beta of Windows 4 "Chicago" just worked,
first time. Windows 4 was released as Windows 95, of course.

I could never even get Slackware to fully boot on that machine, mind.
I had an IDE boot HD & SCSI external, plus a SCSI CD-ROM, a
combination the developers just had not thought of, back then, AFAICT.

> So far, the Palm Pre is the ONLY cellphone I've seen where Homebrew
> app development is allowed and actually encouraged.  Goto
> and read about Precorder, a homebrew app that turns the Pre into a
> digital camcorder that records using H.264 video with AAC audio.

I'm sure you're right. I am vaguely tempted but they are not yet
generally available outside of the USA yet, AFAIK. It also looks a bit
small for my tastes; I find the iPhone itself a little too small for

> Android is catching up.  Support for it is really taking off and the
> Droid phone has a lot of really interesting features.  My friend with
> the MBP used a Palm Trio phone for a long time and has a lot of apps.
> The Pre emulates the older Palm OS so he should be able to use that
> software on it.  I've been recommending a Pre too him since he's
> wanting to get rid of the Samsung phone he has now.  He wants an
> iPhone but he doesn't want AT&T and isn't willing to wait until
> Verizon finally gets it sometime next year.

[Shrug] Outside of the USA, I'm afraid the rest of us can't fathom
your network squabbles. The rest of the world went GSM about 15-20y
ago; all our phones just worked, everywhere, so we have a working
world network. The US with its small number of monopoly telcos and
broken cell networks is like a museum piece to us. You guys were still
using /pagers/ a decade after they were history everywhere else, which
is what led to those hateful Blackberry things.

Liam Proven • Profile:
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