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Pro User's Perspective on the New iMac (and Other Apple Revelations)
Pages: 1, 2

Conference Sessions

While I didn't get the chance to attend all the conferences sessions I wanted, I did catch a couple of good ones, both part of the Mac OS X Pro Conference Track.



The first, "Backup, Archiving, and File Transfers for Mac OS X," was a panel hosted by longtime Mac developer Leonard Rosenthol, with participants that included Craig Issacs of Dantz Development, the makers of Retrospect, and Mac expert Adam Engst.

An obvious holdup to widespread adoption of Mac OS X has been the lack of an adequate backup solution. Rosenthol made a great case in defense of developers of such products by presenting three matrices showing why it's been so hard to do.

The tables outlined about a dozen issues that needed to be addressed for each of three aspects of the OS: its five application environments, four volume formats, and four archiving/encoding formats. (You can download a PDF of the presentation slides, including these tables here.)

The two solutions mentioned most often for backing up (and more importantly, restoring) Mac OS X systems were Tri-Backup for simple backups of a local machine, and Retrospect 5 for doing network backups.

While neither of these products is in a release version, both are available for trial: Tri-Backup as a beta, and Retrospect 5 as a preview.

Another session, this one also given by Rosenthol, was just as pertinent to folks wanting to get the most out of Mac OS X: "Using Unix Software with Mac OS X." (A PDF of the presentation slides is available here.)

With more and more "ports" of Unix software available to Mac OS X each day, it's becoming a lot easier to install and run applications originally developed with other Unices in mind. However, as Rosenthol pointed out, there are a few issues that can keep you from running some Unix software in Mac OS X:

  • Unix Drivers: Unlike all other Unices, Mac OS X relies on its own "IOKit" software component to interface with hardware. Therefore, a Unix driver cannot be ported to Mac OS X.
  • Some Intel-specific distributions--those that depend on a little-endian byte order--might be problematic.
  • Dynamic linking in Mac OS X is unique and might cause install errors.
  • Mac OS X includes no implementation of the X Windows System.

Addressing the final issue, Rosenthol demonstrated a solution running X Windows rootless (with X11 windows side by side with Aqua windows) in Mac OS X. He did this using XFree86 for Darwin and Mac OS X, an open source project, hosted at http://sourceforge.net/projects/xonx.

Showing how to further integrate the two windowing systems, Rosenthol also demonstrated OroborOSX, a window manager that tries to make the X11 windows look and behave more like Aqua windows. For example, without OroborOSX, minimized X11 windows will not show in the Dock.

The session also included a description of some of the better-known Unix package management systems, including:

  • Fink, which uses Debian tools to manage binary packages of many open source Unix ports for Mac OS X. As many of us already using it know, Fink is a great system allowing Mac OS X users to easily install Unix standards such as MySQL, X Windows , X applications, and many others.
  • (GNU-Darwin includes even more binary packages than Fink (these as RPMs), though is arguably less easy to use.

Wrap-Up

This Macworld made obvious the blooming of Mac OS X across the Macintosh landscape. This is an exciting thing to watch for longtime power users who have been waiting for a modern OS from Apple for many years, and are now seeing it become mainstream. Most vendors here seemed to have an Mac OS X solution well under way, if not already released; those that didn't probably felt a bit out of place.

While we had hoped to see upgrades to the Pro line (at least a speed bump), server-grade machines, and more news about the next version of Mac OS X, the fact that so much already seems to be working well with the new OS portends very well for all of us who have stuck with the Mac, and even centered our professional lives around the platform.

By Macworld New York I predict most of the major applications will be released for Mac OS X, Apple will once again be strengthened by strong iMac sales, and the next generation of Pro machines will be announced. This in addition to further releases of Mac OS X will make 2002 a heady year for us. Who knows, if things go any better, Apple might have that fabled rack-mountable, multiprocessor G5 server available for Macworld San Francisco in 2003! Well, one can always dream....

Chris Stone is a Senior Macintosh Systems Administrator for O'Reilly, coauthor of Mac OS X in a Nutshell and contributing author to Mac OS X: The Missing Manual, which provides over 40 pages about the Mac OS X Terminal.


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