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Swaine Manor Welcome to Swaine Manor

by Michael Swaine
07/18/2003

Editor's note: Folks, I have a treat for you: a new column for Mac DevCenter by Michael Swaine. Michael and I go way back. Of course, I'm talking in "Internet Time," which parallels dog years. So, one year of real time is actually seven years of Internet Time. Mike and I worked together in 1999 on the now-defunct publication, "Web Review," and we ran into each other recently at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference. We decided it was time to work together again. This means that every now and then a column will fall out of the sky and land here on Mac DevCenter. So without further ado, I'll now hand the mic over to Mike.

Introduction time. This is Swaine Manor. I'm Mike Swaine, which accounts for half the title. I bought my first Mac in 1985, was writing and publishing (as editor-in-chief of Dr. Dobb's Journal) articles on Mac programming that same year, wrote four different monthly columns for MacUser magazine (on HyperCard, system tweaking, the Internet, and whatever), wrote a couple of books on Mac programming (OK, on HyperTalk and REALbasic, but some of us call that programming), and still work on Macs, running a network of them for the family business.

The Manor part of the title is, of course, an homage to science fiction writer and perennial Byte magazine columnist Jerry Pournelle. Or to Batman. Or to Jerry Pournelle as Batman; maybe we'll find out which over the ensuing months.

Dancing with Apple

Never the most graceful hoofer at the developer dance, Apple has from time to time trod on the toes of its third-party partners. Typically these trod-upon types have been small-footed firms that stray in the way with OS-related products like search tool Watson from Karelia (stomped by Sherlock, that other Baker Street regular) and cowboy-themed system scripting tool Frontier from tenderfoot Dave Winer, but lately the boot has come down farther afield and on bigger bunions.

When Apple released a string of betas of its Safari web browser and published comparisons unfavorable to Microsoft's Internet Explorer for the Mac, and Microsoft subsequently announced that it would no longer be developing IE for the Mac, it was possibly to keep a straight face while denying a cause-and-effect relationship.

After all, Microsoft wasn't even planning to keep IE around as a separate product on the Windows platform now that that antitrust unpleasantness was over.

When Apple blindsided Microsoft with its keynote presentation application and dissed PowerPoint, it would have taken an Ari Fleischer to claim that Microsoft was thrilled about it, but one was still tempted to look the other way.

After all, the victim was Microsoft. Which, one feels compelled to point out, has as of current date, not threatened to halt development on PowerPoint, preferring perhaps to lick its wounded toes in private. And until the Supreme Court says otherwise I think that's the best place for such behavior.

But when Apple added 300-plus features to Final Cut Pro, and came out with Final Cut Express, and added Shake 3 to turn a video editing product into a video editing product line, and Adobe subsequently announced that it would stop developing Premiere for the Mac, it was no longer possible to deny that the team of Cause and Effect were doing their buck and wing act at center stage.

Meanwhile out on the dance floor toes are curling under trying to make less of a target for the flying fickle feet of Apple and its apps.

"If Apple's already doing an application, it makes the market for a third-party developer that much smaller.... I think you're going to find that more and more... if Apple's in a software market, third-party vendors are going to skip it" was how Adobe put it.

The Adobe statement had a comfortingly familiar sound. With all that has altered since the return of the RDF, it is nice to know that some things never change. A leopard cannot change its spots, they say, although apparently a jaguar can change into a panther and Apple can decide that megaHertz numbers matter after all.

You Don't Know Jack Horner?

Market share numbers, on the other hand, are still a sore point, but maybe Apple has figured out how to pull out a plum from its single-digit presence in the market pie. The trick: If you don't have the head count, don't count heads. Shift the focus from the person to the persona. An Apple patent, curiously naming as its lead inventor Steve Capps, a Mac hero who nonetheless has been working for Microsoft for a while now, covers multiple personas (personae?) on a mobile device. Each of these personas would, I presume, need its own dot-mac account, Apple-branded flight jacket, and so on. You think I'm kidding. Well, I am, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong. We're talking about Apple, remember.

The Leakest Wink

I want to live in the world of MacOSRumors. Leaks, whether of water or dirt, seek their level, and MacOSRumors lurks at dirt level, sopping up the gossip.

One MacOSRumors scenario that I can't wait to see play out is Linux apps working seamlessly in Mac OS X 10.4. That would be PowerPC Linux apps, of course, but hey. I recall a time, long ago, when it seemed like every other year was the Year of Unix, when analysts assured us all that Unix was going to Break Out and Go Mainstream. It never happened. What happened instead was Linux. Now Apple is one of the few remaining Unix-not-Linux companies. Of course, it's the biggest seller of Unix systems, but with every other company having to come up with a Linux strategy, which in some cases meant killing off its own Unix variant, it's hard not to wonder what Apple is going to do to coexist with Linux. Maybe we'll find out next year.

The Bat Cave

This is the basement level of Swaine Manor, the utility-belt packing zone, devoted to news about development tools--but chiefly those with which I have some hands-on experience. Since as a developer I've devolved into a weekend warrior, these will tend to be scripting systems and other tools with a low-rise learning curve. This month that means REALbasic and Revolution.

REAL Software has released REALbasic 5.2, with "greatly reduced compile times," a greatly desired feature. Compile time was what one of REAL's hands took away when its other hand delivered the greatly improved compiler in version 5.0.

Version 5.1 was an attempt to fix the bugs introduced in version 5.0. To see how greatly that worked out, check to see if the "Fixing bugs versus implementing new features" thread on the REALbasic-Betas list has died out yet. I've been following this saga for a while now, and it's exciting reading. REAL's customers are a feisty bunch.

Related Reading

REALBasic: TDG
By Matt Neuburg

I think some of them are the same people who keep nagging me (and quite rightly, too) to update the blinking errata list for my REALbasic for Macintosh book. Guess I'd better do that. Btw, if you're interested in learning REALbasic, I'd recommend getting Matt Neuburg's book. Mine's OK, but for most Mac DevCenter readers, I suspect his more advanced book is more appropriate. There's also a good magazine on RB.

The big scoop regarding REAL Software, though, is that it is on the brink of announcing its third supported platform. Currently, REALbasic lets you develop and deploy on Mac and Windows. Possible targets for the next platform, which I want to get on record before they tell me what they really have in mind and tie my tongue with a nondisclosure agreement, are Palm (which I'm guessing would be deployment-only), Linux, and some Unix variety. I include the last only because it seems like the easiest, not because I think it would be a good market for them.

Uh-oh. Looks like your doggerel-blocking software malfunctioned:

When your business is dangling over the brink
And delays and confusion have led you to think
Your supply chain itself its own weakest link,
Just buy your
Supplier
And remove all the red from your corporate ink.

That may or may not be the logic behind Runtime Revolution's acquisition of its supplier MetaCard. MetaCard, a solid cross-platform development environment that owes a lot to Apple's HyperCard, is the engine inside RunRev's Revolution product. RunRev is the younger of the two companies but its young staff are more interested than MetaCard's Scott Raney in what Scott calls the administrivia of software development, not to mention being better at marketing. And user interface design. And documentation. No offense, Scott. Since RunRev's offices are in Edinburgh, several bad jokes about the Scottish office and the Scott-ish office suggest themselves, but I'll leave those as an exercise for the reader.

CEO Kevin Miller told me, "We are now in complete control of the entire direction of the product," and he promises exciting improvements in the months ahead.

If you're interested in Revolution, in addition to the RunRev site, there's a new e-zine on Revolution called revJournal.

Michael Swaine has been writing about computers and technology for over twenty years. O'Reilly regulars may recall his "Swaine's Frames" column for WebReview.


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