updated 10:50 am EST, Fri February 24, 2006
Darwin for x86 limits?
Apple's latest move to keep certain parts of its Darwin source-code secret has some developers wondering about the project's future viability. With the release of Intel-based Macs, the company has begun to limit the developer access to key components of the operating system, leaving many frustrated with Apple's open-source efforts. The move, some speculate, may be related to related to recent hacker efforts to run Mac OS X on generic Intel-powered computers. Noting other frustrating aspects during the evolution of Apple's open-source efforts, Rob Braun of Daemon News says that the company's latest move to not release source to key components of the OS, such as the kernel and all drivers is likely to continue push developers away from Apple's open-source Darwin project. "This means Darwin/x86 is dead in the water; Darwin/ppc has many closed source components and is a deprecated architecture."
"One has to wonder why Apple even bothers to release non-GPL'd source at all, if it is unwilling to cooperate with external developers to increase their return on investment and accept external bug fixes and features. Even worse, one has to wonder why people would want to donate their time to such a fruitless and pointless cause."
With the release of Mac OS X 10.4, Apple has made progress in making the Darwin open-source system more useful. The company released Darwinbuild, a tool that greatly simplified building Darwin projects, allowing developers to build them as close as possible to the way Apple does--and much more quickly and easily. It also allowed developers to create patches to the Apple source, which aided in porting changes across several Apple source drops, according to Braun.
However, problems still remained, according to the brief history. In addition to the growing number of access limitations, Apple's schedule for releases prevents developers from offering meaningful contributions back to Apple and the company been slowing transitioning away from Darwin source to Mac OS X source--a move that introduces more dependencies on non-released code.
"Darwin source could be reasonably expected to be consistent and be used to create a Darwin standalone open source release. Mac OS X source was the source used to build Mac OS X, which could include dependencies on non-open source projects That made it difficult to impossible to build a Darwin release or even to build these projects on a stock Mac OS X system. Darwin is clearly fading into the background now."