Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks — Positive first impression

The latest version of Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks is on my iMac and running smoothly. The only real change I’ve noticed is a slight increase in speed of Google Chrome, which is my primary browser, along with the Finder. Other applications seem snappier as well. My long time gripe (unspoken till now) about Macs was that shy of being fresh out of the box, they seem to lack a certain snappiness when switching between applications. Perhaps it’s just using the same machine too long between clean installations of the system software. Perhaps I’ll use the savvy instructions from Ars Technica entitled “How to make your own bootable OS X 10.9 Mavericks USB install drive”.

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Apple’s MacPaint and QuickDraw source code released to the world

Who here remembers MacPaint? MacPaint shipped with the original Apple Macintosh computer in 1984. It quietly shook the world in its own ways. While it was not the first bitmap graphics programs, it introduced the tool palette that can still be seen in programs like Adobe Photoshop, GIMP, and GraphicConverter.

Bitmap graphics programs made it possible to directly make pictures with a computer and mouse; previously, graphics had to be created through programming, or via keyboard interaction. (The very first may have been the Markup program that ran on the Xerox Alto computers produced in 1973.) They are called bitmap programs, as they will paint in exactly the way the user moves the mouse. The problem with bitmaps is that when you magnify the image, they look jagged, or “pixelated.” The solution is to use a vector-based drawing application, in which you create scalable, resizable objects rather than just coloring pixels. MacDraw and Adobe Illustrator are examples of this type of program.

Anyway, Apple Inc. has released the source code of MacPaint and the underlying QuickDraw software to the Computer History Museum. Programmers in the audience can dig into the source code, assuming you can work with Pascal or 68000 processor assembly.

According to the museum:

The Apple Macintosh combined brilliant design in hardware and in software. The drawing program MacPaint, which was released with the computer in January of 1984, was an example of that brilliance both in what it did, and in how it was implemented.

For those who want to see how it worked “under the hood”, we are pleased, with the permission of Apple Inc., to make available the original program source code of MacPaint and the underlying QuickDraw graphics library.

While I enjoyed Bill Budge’s MousePaint (and RasterBlaster!) for the Apple ][, and later MacPaint and its many clones and knock-offs, I’ll leave the source code to someone who can actually use it. Either way, thanks to genius programmer and early Mac guru Bill Atkinson for helping change the world.

More on the Russian spy ring

A few things:

• A total of eleven people have been arrested. They led seemingly normal lives in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia.

• Their neighbors thought they were average suburbanites, not spies. “‘They couldn’t have been spies. Look what she did with the hydrangeas,’ 15-year-old Jessie Gugig quipped to the New York Times after the arrest of the Murphys.”

• This case is showing the subtly with which the Obama administration is capable of operating. From The Guardian:

[President] Obama was aware of the investigation before he met with the Russian president Dmitry Medvedev at the White House last Thursday. The two leaders did not discuss the issue, Gibbs said.

• Obama knew about it, but he and Medvedev had cheeseburgers together one day in Virginia! Mr. Obama certainly is a cool-minded leader if he can pull that off.

• Curiously, Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin is among those who have said this won’t have a real impact on the course of Russian-American affairs. A writer for The Guardian agrees with that. (It’s my sense, too.)

• Who knew—Medvedev’s a Mac user! And an iPad user. And Steve Jobs gave Medvedev an Apple iPhone 4G during his tour of Silicon Valley. Lucky dog…

(Compare this to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s tour of California in 1959, when there was still extensive train service, and Silicon Valley didn’t exist!)

• The FBI announced the arrests a few days after Medvedev returned to Russia. David Hearst argues that this spy scandal is the last thing that Medvedev needs as he seeks to bring Russia more fully into the modern economic systems.

• The good news? The spy ring was busted before it could do any real spying.

Steve Jobs caught Microsoft flat-footed, not once, but twice.

This is pleasing to me, in that way that seeing one huge company beat another, even huger company is pleasing. It helps that one is Apple, Inc., the company that I’ve been mildly obsessed with since an early age. The other, Microsoft, seemed to have Apple beat after the release of Windows 95. At the time, Apple wasn’t too hard to beat. The company was churning out endless variations of the Performa line of computers, which were best known for middling performance and crap-tastic consumer appeal.

All this was also before Steve Jobs returned, and we started seeing products like the Blue & White Power Mac G3, the iMac, or the ill-fated Power Mac G4 Cube. (Part of me still wants one…)

The iPod and the iTunes Store, it turns out, caught Microsoft totally off-guard. It seems that Steve Jobs’ legendary demands for secrecy paid huge dividends. According to MacRumors.com, “e-mails sent by Microsoft executives Bill Gates and Jim Allchin to other members of the Microsoft executive team revealing that the company had been taken by surprise by Apple’s launch of the iTunes Music Store in April 2003. The e-mails were made public as part of an antitrust suit brought against Microsoft in late 2006 for which Groklaw has been documenting the exhibits provided as evidence.”

MacRumors story.

Groklaw story.

And later the iPhone caught Gates & Co.  flat-footed—again.

This is very telling to me, having begun reading Leander Kahney’s Inside Steve’s Brain. Leander was an industry buddy of mine back in the day, reporting on our travails at LinuxPPC, so I figured I’d get his book in lieu of the JesusPad coming out. It’s been a very good read, a good glimpse inside what some observers can see of Steve Jobs’ thinking. It’s also a good historical contrast with Frank Rose’s 1990 book West of Eden: The End of Innocence at Apple Computer. That book detailed the rise of Apple, the development and release of the Macintosh, and Steve Jobs’ exile from the company. All that I remember of it at this point is at the very end, when Rose described Jobs working on the NeXT computer. There was a Macintosh in his office, with the six-colored Apple logo gouged off the front.

There’s been a remarkable progression since then, and even starting well before then. Remember that Mac OS X has UNIX at its core. The first version of UNIX was developed in 1969. It went through many iterations and off-shoots, including BSD,which was created around 1978. BSD later branched into FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD, and also into NEXTSTEP/OPENSTEP, which powered the beautiful and expensive NeXT computers. Apple acquired NeXT in 1996, bringing Jobs back in an advisory capacity, but what would happen with OPENSTEP remained up in the air. At the time, Apple was working on their next-gen OS, Copland which never saw the light of day. Perhaps out of desperation, Apple’s top brass looked around for a third-party system they could meld the proprietary Mac OS onto. Somehow, OPENSTEP was chosen to be the basis for the new system, then known as Rhapsody, which grew into Mac OS X. Thus, the work done at Bell Labs in 1969 found its way into millions of Macintosh, iPod, and iPhone computers. (To say nothing of the thousands of earlier Macs that ran LinuxPPC, our version of Linux, which in turn was modeled after POSIX.)

Got all that? There will be a quiz later. Good night!

Happy birthday Macintosh!

Like it or not, love it or leave it, the Mac changed the world on this day in 1984. Its effects continue to deepen and multiply today. We’ll see if Apple introduces a cousin of it on the 27th.

Original Macintosh computer

“1984 – The first Apple Macintosh, today known as the Macintosh 128K (pictured), went on sale, becoming the first commercially successful personal computer to feature a mouse and a graphical user interface rather than a command line interface.”