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$429 Million

Arno revisited. The glory of Pascal.


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'Back in 1999 I was the technical lead for the Mac OS X Finder at Apple', wrote Arno seven years later. 'At that time the Finder code base was some 8 years old and had reached the end of its useful life.' That's putting it mildly. But what's also missing from the coming discussion is the context.

1999 was two years after Redwood City rescued Cupertino. A while after that, Steve Jobs introduced the NeXT File Viewer - and was booed. This evidently led to the formation of Arno's group.

But NeXT's File Viewer was surely a horrible application? Hardly. It was part of the NeXT Workspace, along with the Dock. If NeXT engineers had been clever enough to create a coding legacy that merited a purchase by an Apple threatened with Chapter 11, they surely were capable of making their file manager core anything they wanted. And as evidenced by Steve Jobs' low-key but brilliant tutorial, File Viewer - indeed the entire NeXT system - had a number of features that are still ahead of their time today, over twenty years later.

No, the answer to the above can be seen in Arno's lovechild as released: in many ways, it was just File Viewer with a more familiar name. The name change seems to have been the most important thing about the transition: if the old beige box Finder is anything like what's available today, it's not exactly something to write home about - and is one of the reasons this company took the time to write a proprietary alternative: neither Finder nor the alternatives were - or are - conducive to systems development and technical tasks.

'Part of the work involved separating its user interface and its core functionality, the back-end', wrote Arno, after the team admitted they couldn't use Apple's old Finder code.

Indeed. For how on earth were they to use whiskered code written for an obsolete operating system? The members of Arno's team: were they seasoned engineers from NeXT, or were they die-hard Apple Pascal discards? For Avie was in principle head of operations; did he have any insight into what they were doing?

What exactly were the articulated objections to NeXT's file management system? File Viewer itself might not be the best model ever, but it was an integrated part of a much bigger whole, with entire API systems used as a backbone.

The proof in the pudding, based on what's seen today, is what Finder can and cannot do today, and in this regard, it's much more time-consuming (and painful) to enumerate all the essential tasks the application cannot do. That's a long list, leaving ordinary users - not to mention the unseen professional development and system administrations community - crippled, with absolutely no hope to accomplish the most common and mundane and even trivial of tasks.

Arno continues. 'However, we soon started realising that the Finder backend would be useful outside of the Finder.'

Wow. The Finder backend? Were they even acquainted with the NeXT Workspace? All that code - purchase price $429 million - and all that technology, and it's going to be used for what? And ripping apart the guts of that system will result in what? Any system architect can tell you - as soon as he gets finished screaming and pulling out his hair.

John Siracusa famously acknowledged that Apple had made a right mess of their expensive toy, but, amazingly - and this might be how he's remembered, if at all - said that Apple should not stop trashing their own system, but instead 'keep up the good fight'. It was said that a lot of people in Cupertino agreed with Siracusa at the time; but who were these people? Were they part of the cavalry who'd come to rescue the company from the fate of Michael Dell, or were they part of the disgruntled majority who just didn't like change?

'There is also an unfortunate bug that is not fixed to this day that can result in an excessive creation of .DS_Store files', wrote Arno back in 2006. Read that again; note the year again. That's fourteen years ago. And that's only when Arno came clean: the 'bug' was known long before that.

Why wasn't it fixed? Why does it exist to this day?

Check this. It's from last year - over ten years since Arno's article.

https://en.internetwache.org/scanning-the-alexa-top-1m-for-ds-store-files-12-03-2018/

The authors discover that .DS_Store is still, anno 2018, a major pain in the arse, still exposing critical and sensitive information.

This very evening, this site reviewed a software product that claims it combats .DS_Store in realtime. And, lo and behold, right inside the DMG, ripe with megabloats of Swift libs, right there, peeking out: a .DS_Store. If the people purportedly fighting .DS_Store cannot package their own products without it, how sad is that?

Going back to Steve's great demo: what was it that so infuriated his audience? Could they have gained such insight into the design and philosophy of the application, not to say the entire system, in a few short minutes? And could they, of all people, think better and smarter than NeXT? Or just 'different'?

Perhaps someone who attended that meeting can come forward.

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