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Freedom 'from' and freedom 'to': Over the years, we've seen many people flee 'from' Windows. They fled mostly because Windows had been shown to be untenable, insecure, and downright dangerous. Nobody in their sane mind should use Windows, even today. And we say that as long-time teachers of Windows systems programming. Windows is plagued by viruses, trojans, and malware, and it's the chief reason that spam proliferates.
Windows cannot be fixed.
Many people sought haven in open source alternatives such as FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and the thousand flavours of Linux. After considerable thought over many long months, we chose Apple's OS X for several reasons.
1 The legacy of NeXT. We worked with the NeXT people in Sweden, and NeXT technology was 25 years ahead of the game. Everything that was good in OS X had its roots in NeXT.
2 The graphics were better. Not only were the icons better, they were also bigger. Screen graphics were vector-based, all coordinates expressed in floating point.
3 The development environment was fantastic. The programming language was Objective-C, a respectful superset of C. C could hardly predict the coming age of graphic user interfaces, nor should it do so today. Objective-C takes care of that, with but a few easy-to-learn syntactic additions.
4 Apple had the ability to push a 'non-Windows' platform mainstream, something the open source alternatives would never do. Our hope had been that OS X would overtake Windows as the personal computing platform of choice, the sensible and safe alternative. We also endeavoured to start the so-called NeXTbuntu project, an effort to create an open-source 'OS X' in the same spirit.
Our primary concern was - and is - the safety of people online, so that they can explore and enjoy the opportunities of the Internet as a whole without being constantly worried about the bad things that can happen (or worse: remaining blissfully ignorant and thereby victimised).
o A world where there is no spam, or worse: spam with malicious payloads;
o A world where 'security consciousness' doesn't have to be a full-time obsession for each and every user;
o A world where ordinary users don't have to keep a constant lookout for 'intruders' on their systems.
Apple's OS X gave hope of just such a world.
The early versions of OS X were indeed promising. (We got in the picture before 10.2 Jaguar, back in 2001.) The development tools at the time were NeXT's Project Builder, Interface Builder, and ancillary applications such as Icon Composer.
Things were good.
There seemed to have been an internal fight going on inside Cupertino at the time. Both Avie Tevanian and Jon Rubinstein held high positions, as they had at NeXT. The NeXTies far outweighed the Maccies in management, which was just as well: Apple had just paid $429 million for them and for their technology. But internally there was a lot of resistance, and, as Steve Jobs was to later note, you can't change all of that.
10.2 Jaguar was a success. The spinning beach ball was gone. Lots of things that previously had only 'almost worked' were now working acceptably. The system still held promise, and the future still seemed bright.
Outside Cupertino, the Mac army made their presence felt. John Siracusa, who always produced encyclopaedic reviews of each and every system update, who had the skills level of a website designer, admitted that Apple had desecrated the NeXT heritage, but - unbelievably enough - urged everyone to continue this desecration, to 'keep up the good fight'. John Gruber, every fanboy's fanboy, took to personal attacks against NeXT icons and otherwise accredited luminaries, for as little as praising NeXT.
10.3 Panther was mostly a big nothing burger. Network admins saw improvements at their end, but, as a whole, the system saw 'change for the sake of change'. And there were unaddressed issues as well.
10.4 Tiger was a blur, or half of a scrollbar. Not only had Apple introduced a lot of new framework code that broke the message pump paradigm, rewriting proven NeXT code in the process; not only did Apple newbies, ostensibly without a clue what they were looking at, rip apart NeXT code, believing they were correcting errors but in reality introducing unforgivable gaffes; but Apple also introduced their kernel programming interface (KPI) update, giving people screens with severed scrollbars and other things ten times worse. Apple showrooms at the time must have looked lovely.
Our CLIX had been out for some time, and the global response was encouraging. Our AWS, introduced shortly after, and free just like CLIX, never really caught on in the same way. Using the 'Services' menu, it took advantage of NeXT technology that NeXT had never taken full advantage of. Our Xfile Suite hit the market as a commercial product and did fairly well.
It was first with Tiger that we began using Apple's bug reporter facility. We reported some 50 egregious bugs in a short time. None were resolved. Hats off anyway to the bug reporter team who did a good job, whoever they were. They're not to blame for the at times snarky responses from the developers they contacted.
We could have nothing but admiration for the NeXTies in Cupertino, but time and again saw little to impress amongst their Maccies. Back in 1997, those Maccies thought all computer programs looked like COBOL. A lot was written in UPPER CASE. There was little resemblance to modern programming languages. (Their 'Pascal' was a joke.) So not only did they not have C, the absolute sine qua non, but they didn't have Objective-C either. And, for those who don't know, you can't just jump into Objective-C without having paid your dues in C. So the quality of their code was accordingly.
We'd corresponded with an 'insider' in those early years, somebody whose identity cannot be revealed to this day, for fear of reprisal. For that's how the fanboys are: several people have lost their jobs for speaking out against Apple. But this insider told us the sad tale of what was going on.
The Maccies have taken over again, said the insider. Steve can't stop it. (Avie and Jon were to exit Apple on the same day; the dutiful Mac media ignored that event completely.)
You can't complain about this 'new guard' destroying the system, the insider warned. They won't listen. If they suspect you're familiar with NeXT, they'll tune you out. What you have to do is pretend you're a dumbfuck fanboy and find another way to describe things. They'll only take things to heart if they think it's their own idea.
But I suspect things will normalise in 10-15 years, the insider concluded.
10-15 years from 1997 puts us as far ahead as 2012. But in those years we've seen some pretty atrocious things.
- Apple still doesn't have a file manager.
- Apple's file management module is still bits 'n' pieces.
- The Services menu got trashed. Today it's a shadow of its former self.
- In their paranoia, they made development with the Services menu nigh-on impossible.
- The 'expected behaviour' scandal. Suddenly one could legally hose an entire system.
- The 'protocol hole' scandal. A 'fix' was found in 15 days, but the hole shouldn't still exist.
- The Tom Karpik 'massive data loss' scandal. And here come the fanboys! Really cringeworthy.
- The Opener and Oompa-Loompa scandals. Systems had been intentionally wide open for years.
- The Maynor/Ellch scandal.
Open source did not have the same scandals.
As the life span of Tiger came to an end, with reportedly millions of bug reports still not processed, Apple's bug report department told everyone it was 'end of the line', that no more Tiger bugs would be handled, that people should upgrade to Leopard.
10.5 Leopard was no thrill, but 10.6 Snow Leopard, which followed, was a strong release, perhaps the most stable since 10.2 Jaguar. Snow Leopard was followed by 10.7 Lion, and so forth. And things gradually began shifting towards mobile development, ultimately to the point that an Apple advert asked coyly 'what's a computer?' No longer would there be a dedicated OS X team; instead, a few laggers would get crumbs from the burgeoning mobile groups and implement things that way.
The core of an OS should be simple and rock-solid. Because that's the foundation, as Apple loved to say. Yet it's hard to look at OS X architecture today and say what it is. Open Darwin is no more, the head honcho very publicly admitting defeat. DTrace was trashed. No one's really sure about APFS yet, as the specs are still not forthcoming as promised. And now that we've added 'Dark Mode' to the 'Mac experience', an effort that must have taken many man-months, we've also set a new highly (but not consistently) enforced rule for multithreading. Word has it that Apple hired on several fleets of newbies to take care of legacy software titles that were broken by the new paradigms. Yet if it works for iPhone, that's good enough! No one seems to be worried about what happens down the line.
'Are you getting it?'
The advent of iPhone in 2007 brought a spate of scandals of their own, with everything running as root, and John Gruber defending it; with the notorious passwords 'alpine' and 'dottie'; and finally with the horrific App Store. This store, which seems so right for mobile users, turns out to be the arch-enemy of software developers everywhere. It is not the domain of an OS vendor to interfere in software development. One need only look at the shape of things today to understand.
We at Rixstep worried and warned about this long ago. In fact, we set up a gambit with Steve himself. We've pointed this out on several occasions, and the only sound to be heard is that of MacCognitive MacDissonance.
Apple's goal all along has been to control the independent software market. Say what you will about Microsoft, and they can play dirty too, but they understood the importance of a thriving and vibrant independent market, as IBM before them. Apple have never understood this and never will.
That Apple would lock down their OS ten years ago to prevent independent software from running: no, they didn't dare. But they wanted to! Now they're closing in again. A little birdie in California whispered the truth. And yes, it's basically come to pass. No, the water isn't boiling yet, Mister Frog, but it's a bit warmer, but you'll get used to it. And so forth.
And count on the fanboys, this time as always, never objecting, desperate to rationalise what Apple keep doing to them. Apple once offered a freedom 'from' - as did many other platforms that were not Windows. But Apple will never appreciate or respect the freedom 'to'.
Starting with 10.15, and perhaps earlier with 10.14.5, Apple will clamp down yet again. No one can possibly know all the dirty tricks they have up their sleeves. (Well...) And one can only do so much to preserve integrity and ease of use. But one thing seems certain at this time: neither this site nor any other self-respecting site will go along with Apple's nefarious plans.
No employer in the world gets off so easily and cheaply.
No third party is ever going to get their grubby hands on our software without paying for it or being given a freebie by us. Nor will we, under any circumstances, redistribute our own products if they've been touched, tampered with, doctored, or 'notarised' by Apple. We categorically reject all such suggestions, and we categorically reject the actual line of reasoning behind them, as we know that they are not in the public interest.
It's not so many years ago that Apple had their 'Mac vs PC' advert campaign. Apple drummed it in for everyone: theirs was the 'Rock-Solid Foundation'. It was UNIX. It was unassailable. And OS X never got hit a single time the way Windows got hit every third day. Of course OS X was safe. And now Apple want the fanboys to think it's insecure again, so they can - by using fear - get them to accept their fancy walled garden.
We call 'bullshit'.
IBM's PowerPC processors were the best! Intel was shite! And the fanboys loved bragging about their CPUs! Then suddenly that wasn't true anymore, and the fanboys got whacked upside the head with their own cognitive dissonance.
It always goes like that.
Apple's OS X didn't spread to the rest of the world. Apple didn't want it to. They bound the hardware to the software. They put limericks in their kernel code, begging people not to steal!
The world can be a freer and better place. But Apple will never take you there. No matter how many Oprahs and Spielbergs they bring on stage. Programmers who take pride in their work, and see their work as art, will never go along with it. Freedom is not a big word at Apple.
Baits & Switches
Nearly twenty years ago, we chose to lead our followers by good example. We brought countless serious end-users and admins over to Apple's Unix.
We also read about how Apple pulled a classic 'bait and switch' with their independent developers by first promising them cross-platform compatibility so they could access the all-important Windows market, and then silently dropping the ball once they were locked inside the garden.
The walls are now closing in again, and even more.
The world was in for a bit of a shock when Apple introduced their app store, carefully stating that the actual programmers would get to keep 70% of their revenue, when the going commission for payment processors had been (and still is) 10%.
Worse was the way this software would be presented. The system is completely arbitrary, and we saw, only this week, how Apple can just rip the rug out from under successful businesses - if they get too close to the 'wrong' things.
o The fatal flaw in the infamous 'build 48' of Safari, the first release ever, was never owned up to. Users found their entire home areas hosed by something that could only exist with Apple's idea of file management: an ordinary downloaded file wiping out one's entire user root directory (and its contents - yes, all your files). There were two flaws discovered that day: Apple owned up to the lesser of those, but never the really serious one. And it was only through the diligence of an online community that message digests of what, according to Apple, were identical copies of 'build 48' could be examined and found to differ, thus exposing Apple's lie.
o When Apple reneged on their promise to keep iTools and mac.com free, comments on those developments were suddenly purged from Apple's forums because they 'called official Apple policy into question'. Apple didn't want newcomers to know of their broken promises.
o When David Maynor accidentally found a fatal flow in one of Apple's wireless drivers, and brought it to his friend at the US Naval Laboratory, Apple came down hard on Maynor, Maynor's employer, an IBM subsidiary, and Maynor's friend Ellch, gagging them and forcing them to cancel their talk at Toorcon at the last minute. Maynor had demonstrated the flaw, before his first public demonstration, to a select audience, using only Apple hardware and drivers - something that wasn't widely publicised at the time; as a courtesy to Apple, he used third-party kit in the public demonstration. To return the courtesy, Apple set out, all guns blazing, to smear Maynor for all they could, enlisting the help of the 'Mac army', before getting a gag order at Toorcon.
o When Kevin Finisterre and 'LMH' announced their 'Month of Apple Bugs' in early 2007, Apple, who were getting ready to roll out iPhone, stayed silent and let their 'Mac army' do the dirty work.
o Apple consistently look for ways to thwart and harass anyone critical of their products or their policies. The 'Mac army' worked almost independently, almost as if they're the third generation from Jonestown.
o When our monthly newsletter enumerated the pros and cons of switching to OS X from Windows, and mentioning that switchers had to be aware of the 'fanboys', the 'fanboys' attempted (unsuccessfully) to have our Internet connection shut down.
o When we highlighted the fact that Apple had pulled a 'bait and switch' on independent developers in the late 1990s, that same 'Mac army' mobilised again in an effort to hide the truth.
o Confronted with the risk that their platform might host a major epidemic as Windows had done for so many years, Apple completely removed the guts of NeXT's messaging framework, leaving only code stubs.
o Apple's Terminal.app is still not 'kosher Unix', losing its footing when a directory's CNID changes.
o Apple used to allow for 'alternative' file management utilities through a special user system setting, most likely used when testing their own code. This was later removed and their own code was tied to launchd. This has since been loosened, but one still can't get that freaky face off the Dock.
o Apple don't like people tinkering with Services, perhaps due to the fact that they themselves had once messed up and opened the system to privilege escalation.
o In a vain attempt to cater to third-party educational software, Apple created the scandalous 'Opener hole', and left it open for years, ignoring pleas from concerned admins, and leading to the creation of the Opener script, which was specifically designed to pressure Apple to close the hole. It took several years before Apple relented; during that entire time, all OS X systems were wide open to root exploit through a simple ten-second drag-and-drop file copy operation. Once the hole was finally closed, Apple never admitted what they'd done or how they'd left Mac users insecure and vulnerable to exploit.
o Code-signing was introduced not to protect software but to protect Apple's control of independent products and their grab for the concomitant revenue streams.
Step by step, although Apple initially represented a freedom 'from' (Windows) which attracted many switchers, they also demonstrated more and more how they were never going to give their users the freedom 'to' - leading, amongst other things, to the legendary essay 'Tinkerer's Sunset' by Mark Pilgrim, and to our statement here today.
It's time to draw the line.
Starting now with these new releases, all Rixstep products for Apple's OS X ('macOS') will contain proprietary technology to defeat Apple's attempts to strangle OS X systems. Apple may of course try to up the ante again in the future, so nothing can ever be certain, but Rixstep will continue to give clients products that are untainted and unrestricted by Apple for as long as is programmatically possible.
That or nothing. No in-between.
Stockholm/London-based Rixstep are a constellation of programmers and support staff from Radsoft Laboratories who tired of Windows vulnerabilities, Linux driver issues, and cursing x86 hardware all day long. Rixstep have many years of experience behind their efforts, with teaching and consulting credentials from the likes of British Aerospace, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Lloyds TSB, SAAB Defence Systems, British Broadcasting Corporation, Barclays Bank, IBM, Microsoft, and Sony/Ericsson.
Rixstep and Radsoft products are or have been in use by Sweden's Royal Mail, Sony/Ericsson, the US Department of Defense, the offices of the US Supreme Court, the Government of Western Australia, the German Federal Police, Verizon Wireless, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Microsoft Corporation, the New York Times, Apple Inc, Oxford University, and hundreds of research institutes around the globe. See here.
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