ZDNet opinion column, Linux advocate Evan Leibovitch said that, in the world of technology, this year’s “Big Lie” is Apple’s assertion that it’s embraced open source software.
Open source is a term for the historical development model used by the Internet community to facilitate distributed development of complex, high-quality software. The basic principle is to involve as many people as possible in writing and debugging code, by publishing the source code and encouraging the formation of a large community of developers who will submit modifications and enhancements.
Darwin, the operating system core at the heart of Mac OS X, has an open source model that Apple had said would allow “the tens of thousands of registered Darwin developers to modify, customize and extend key Apple software, including the modern mach kernel and BSD layers” found in the next generation operating system.” Last April Philip Schiller, Apple’s VP of Worldwide Product Marketing, said in a press release: “The core of Mac OS X is the only mainstream operating system following an open source model. The new Darwin 1.0 posting includes some of the most advanced operating system technology available, and it’s open to our customers and developers so that we may collaborate on the future of the Mac OS.”
However, Leibovitch opined that Apple’s only interest in open source “is what it can extract, both in technology and publicity.” Despite appearances, Darwin’s dependence on free software doesn’t indicate that Apple has changed its self-serving attitude towards the community, he said.
“Because Apple is using technology licensed without restrictions, rather than under the GPL commonly found in Linux software, the company can use Mach code, exploit what the open source community has done, make proprietary modifications, and give back nothing of substance,” Leibovitch wrote. “And that appears to be exactly what Apple has done.”
read his column for the details, but, among his complaints are: The main reason TrueType isn’t supported as well under free operating systems as it should be is that developers fear they might run afoul of Apple’s patents on TrueType. Apple hurts the open source community by refusing to offer any open source support for its QuickTime streaming video format.
Leibovitch feels that Apple has always been a company of closed software and hardware. And he said that “no one outside the world of Mac advocates actually buys into the myth that exploiting Mach represents a change in Apple’s closed corporate attitude.”
Apple, of course, would beg to differ. On its Darwin FAQ page, the company said they’re opening up its source because they believe the open source model is the most effective form of development for certain types of software. By pooling expertise with the open source development community, we expect to improve the quality, performance and feature set of our software, Apple said. The company also stated that they “realize many developers enjoy working with open source software, and we want to provide them the opportunity to use that kind of environment while delivering solutions for Apple customers.”
Darwin 1.3.1 is available for
immediate download from Apple’s Web site. The CD set will be available from the
Apple Developer Connection Web site.