The Boston Globe
, Hiawatha Bray speaks with open source advocate turned Apple employee Jordan Hubbard. Bray’s new article is entitled
At the core of Apple’s OS X.
Bray noted that Hubbard stands alongside Linux co-creator Linus Torvalds and others as one of the popular leaders of open source software development. Hubbard helped found FreeBSD, an open-source version of industrial-strength Unix. Hubbard told Bray that it was his idea to seek employment at Apple, so he could have a hand in making Mac OS X. “This is what I’ve been waiting for for the past 20 years,” said Hubbard, referring to OS X.
Bray explained that while previous versions of Mac OS were built around a proprietary architecture, Mac OS X uses underpinnings culled from various Unix versions. That core operating system technology is also available for download from Apple; it’s called Darwin. “To be sure, a lot of Mac functionality is still closed, especially its elite user-interface code. But the most basic elements of the operating system are as accessible as Linux or FreeBSD,” said Bray.
The mainstream adoption of Linux has been hampered by the relatively primitive user interfaces developed for it over the years; these interfaces don’t compare to Mac OS X’s slick interface, said Bray. An entrenched base of fiercely loyal Mac users 25 million strong may also help OS X’s adoption, but Bray said that it’s people like Hubbard that Apple needs “to bust out of its niche markets and resume a role in the mainstream of computing.” Why? Because they can bridge the gap between the tech-heavy world of open source and the “glossy” stuff Mac consumers expect.
However, Hubbard’s support of Mac OS X does not reflect a universal trend in the open source world. Bray cited Open Source Initiative president Eric Raymond as calling Mac OS X “a step in the right direction,” but still critical of Mac OS X’s closed elements. Bray called Raymond “the guy who coined the term ‘open source’ in the first place.”
Hubbard recognizes that by working on Mac OS X, his efforts will be exposed to much broader range of people, including end users that have no interest in the underlying technology that makes OS X run. Bray said that this consumer-friendliness is something to keep in mind for folks who want to change the world: “Keep it simple.”