The Practical Mac

The Mac Is Back

- 2002.04.16 - Tip Jar

This week's edition of eWeek has a surprising article by Peter Coffee. I have enjoyed Peter's writing over the years, in a number of publications. This most recent article explores another side of Mac OS X: Its friendliness to programmers in general and Java programmers in particular.

The article opens with, "After years of being infamously unfriendly to casual programmers, the Macintosh has suddenly become the machine of choice for out-of-the-box programmability - with tools that not only generate great-looking Macintosh applications but that also generate them in Java so you can take them anywhere." The author is referring to the Apple Project Builder development suite. The suite is included free with OS X, though it is not installed by default, not even on a new Mac. It is also available for download as part of Apple Developer Tools. This is a free download for Apple Developer Connection (ADC) members.

Apple receives highest praise indeed in the following excerpt from the article:

Apple has done a tremendous job of making Java code run well - really well - on the Mac, supporting such refinements as hardware graphics acceleration and anti-aliasing in a way that's completely transparent to the programmer. Like the very first Macintosh, which gave priority memory access to the built-in ROM Toolbox user interface code, the Mac OS X Java implementation gives developers a lot of leverage. Don't be surprised if a Java application on Mac OS X - especially one with a lot of graphics - appears more responsive than a native-code application on a Windows machine with twice the clock speed.

I began using DOS somewhere around version 2. Even the early versions included some sort of development environment for writing programs in BASIC. With the arrival of Windows 95, Microsoft began to scale back on this practice, until it finally disappeared altogether in Windows 2000. Kudos to Apple for taking this practice and running with it in OS X. They have given Mac programming a tremendous shot in the arm by including these tools with their OS.

In a previous column, I noted how quickly Unix applications were being ported to OS X. I see the same thing happening with Java apps.

I have great respect for Sun in their development of the Java environment. The promise of "write once, run anywhere" is an admirable goal that ultimately benefits the entire computing world. The openness of the system is a refreshing contrast to another notable company's policy of proprietary, closed technology.

Mac OS X is much more efficient at running Java applications than the Classic Mac OS. Nowhere is this better illustrated than on the download page for the popular Gnutella client LimeWire, which is written in Java. The size of the download for various operating systems are listed:

Macintosh (OS 8.1 or later w/ 64 MB RAM req.) 11.20 MB
Mac OS X                                       2.33 MB
Windows (NT, 95, 98, Me, XP, 2000)             3.78 MB
Linux w/ Installer                             2.54 MB

Mac OS X wins the contest for "smallest download." But look at the whopping size of that download for the Classic Mac OS!

What was inconceivable as recently as two years ago now looms as a real possibility: The Mac could become the preferred platform for software developers. With Mac OS X and the Apple Developer Tools, the Java promise may become, "Write on the Mac, run anywhere!"

Mac Challenge Update

The Mac Challenge is nearing the halfway point of part 1. I have been Windows-free and using the iMac DV+ exclusively for two weeks now. "Uneventful" might be the most accurate term to describe the Challenge thus far. I will provide a short recap at the beginning of part 2: The switch to the Dell and Windows XP exclusively for one month. LEM

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Steve Watkins is the Vice President for Information Technology for a mid-sized bank, an attorney, and an Army Reserve JAG on extended active duty. He has been a Mac user for about 12 years. He has owned some PCs along the way - but always came back to the Mac. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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