Mac OS X: A Brave New World
But the real good news came when Apple introduced Mac OS X. I jumped right on it when it was first released and have never looked back. The first release was, admittedly not quite ready for prime time, but it did the job and allowed me to get started on the learning curve. And, yes there was a fair amount of learning involved for a long-time user of the old Macintosh operating systems, especially with no in-house mentor.
On the surface, Mac OS X is cool looking. If you don't look too far beyond that, the familiar Macintosh experience is still there. Double-click on the HD icon and it opens up to show the folders and applications as before. But even the slightly curious will have a hard time ignoring the column display option, the Dock, and the System Preferences window.
After just a short time you begin to realize how much time you use to spend drilling down through folders in folders to locate a document or application when, in the multicolumn view all of the options are shown for each step, and the path magically unfolds before you as you click on selected icons. The Dock keeps your most frequently used applications at your fingertips, and the System Preferences panel provides functions similar to, but jazzier than, the old OS Control Panel.
All of the standard applications are included with Mac OS X: AppleWorks, FileMaker Pro, MS Office, Netscape Communicator, Internet Explorer, as well as all the other popular browsers; Connectix jumped in with Virtual PC; Macromedia just released its advanced MX series of Web site development products; and Adobe is on the bandwagon with Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, and InDesign.
But, back to reality; I've got systems and networks to monitor and administer. InterMapper and Timbuktu Pro are, of course, programs that I was interested in, and they are already available in native Mac OS X format. But what else is available to help me do my job?
Well, it turns out that it's a whole new world in that respect. Apple has included most of the basic network management tools in Network Utility: Netstat, Ping, Lookup, Traceroute, Whois, Finger, and Port Scan. A respectable Terminal program is also included, providing a means to remotely monitor and administer devices spread out over all of our locations.
In addition to the availability of many of the Mac programs near and dear to our hearts, we suddenly have a wealth of tools and programs that have been developed on the Unix platform under open source. And, yes they can be ported to Mac OS X. In fact, many of them already have been.
I have just begun to scratch the surface of this gold mine, and already I have accumulated tools for remote access, network monitoring and analysis, and system optimization. I recently logged onto http://osx.hyperjeff.net/apps/, a Web site dedicated to identifying native Mac OS X programs. They list nearly 4,500 such applications.
Onward to Software Development
One of our long-term objectives at Aqua-Flo is to develop an e-Commerce presence. Once again, Apple came through; WebObjects by Apple is a native Mac OS X development framework that provides an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for producing cross-platform or native Mac programs in pure Java, or Web Services applications using XML and Java. It incorporates a complete set of development tools: Project Builder (the IDE), EO Modeler (for database modeling), WebObjects Builder (for building reusable code), Interface Builder (for constructing the graphical interface), and more. Included in the Web Services features are a native XML Coder and a Decoder.
Down from about $50,000 a couple of years ago, WebObjects now costs $695. A sizable community of developers has grown in support of WebObjects, and, in the spirit of open source, there's a very active online forum where users trade questions and answers about WebObjects and programming. (As an aside, WebObjects can also run on Windows, Linux, and Solaris, and probably on any other standard Unix platform.)
For a little lighter programming, Apple has included AppleScript Studio which puts a graphical interface on the AppleScript program. For the price ($0), AppleScript provides an amazing amount of power for automating system and program functions. Although I have only dabbled in it a bit up to this point, I have observed that the same kind of user support is available for AppleScript (as well as for Mac OS X, Java, HTML, and a host of other subjects).
As an Apple Developer (I signed onto the Select program for $500 per year, but the ADC Online program is free), I have access to the latest developer tools, plus some technical support, and hardware and software discounts. The documentation from Apple is freely accessible. The sheer volume of tutorials and manuals available is staggering; everything you need for getting up to speed with WebObjects and all its related topics. We have taken the plunge, and are knee-deep in the waters of Web development, using DreamWeaver and WebObjects. We'll continue this effort to model our e-Commerce site using Business Rules, based on our existing Point-of-Sale/Accounting system operation.