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Apple limits Darwin for x86 source code

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."

by MacNN Staff





  1. John the Geek

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Not Surprising

    When people are using darwin as a way to break OS X, Apple is surely going to lose interest in giving out that source code.

    It's that "one rotten apple spoils the barrel" thing. It's sure to continue to get worse as people continue to act as if they have a right to steak Mac OS X and do with it what they want.

  1. Horsepoo!!!

    Joined: Dec 1969


    john the geek speks truth

    ...and frankly, I've never seen anything good some out of Darwin being open source. Can someone point me to something driver development or enhancing drivers or other core enhancements from Darwin's open-sourceness?

    Maybe I'm wrong about the whole thing but if I am, I want proof of contributions to the project that were worthwhile.

  1. VValdo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    This sucks...

    it looks as though having the x86 source code for Darwin, which we all thought was Apple giving back to the OS community, was just to get free R&D so they could keep the secret Intel port of OS X viable. Now that the trunk of OS X is on Intel and kernel development is focused on x86, what do they need the OS community for?

  1. Horsepoo!!!

    Joined: Dec 1969


    what pisses me off...

    what pisses me off about osx86project and efforts to get OS X running on x86 beige boxes right now is that Mac OS X 10.4.4 and 10.4.5 aren't being sold right now. What *is* being sold are iMacs and MacBook Pros. If people are gonna try to make me believe all the people that hang out on osx86project forums have bought iMacs and MacBook Pros to use the 10.4.4 restore CD to install OS X on a PC, you're gonna have to do a f****** good job proving it to me.

    So, I'd wager a vast majority (probably around 95%) of people on those forums and 99% of all other people that are running OS X 10.4 on their PC have acquired it ILLEGALLY. Those who have acquired it legally through the purchase of an Intel-based Mac are breaking the EULA (that's another story though)...heck installing a single-license OS X copy on more than two Apple PPC computers is breaking the EULA...doubly so if you're running a single-license copy on non-Apple hardware.

    But the point is that almost everyone has acquired OS X illegally.

    When OS X 10.5 (Universal Binary) is actually sold in stores. Then I suppose I'll cool down since I'll have an easier time believing stories about people buying OS X 10.5 for 129$, rather than purchasing a computer that many PC users consider "ridiculously overpriced" to run the copy of OS X that comes with it on their PC.

  1. bbraun

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: horsepoo!!!'s commen

    As for what has ever come from Darwin and Apple's Open Source efforts, a lot of things. The problem is few to none have made it back into Apple's releases. For example, full SysV IPC, an mfs implementation, x86 audio drivers, network drivers for tulip, amd79c970, /dev/random, initial PAM support and Apple specific modules, and prismii wireless cards, were all developed outside of Apple for Darwin. Additionally, several command line configuration tools such as ncutil and apctl. Several important bug fixes were also contributed from outside Apple as part of Darwin development such as critical serial bugs which helped modem support, single user mode, and countless others. A lot of things came from outside Apple as part of Darwin development.

    As for buying Mac OS X, you should read your EULA. Even ppc versions are not allowed to be run on anything other than Apple hardware that was specifically made for Mac OS X. Technically, you can't even run Mac OS X in pearpc, and running it on older unsupported macs is questionable. Buying Mac OS X x86 and running it on non-Apple hardware (or even in an emulator) is against the EULA and illegal.

  1. Luke MacWalker

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re:john the geek speks...

    "Can someone point me to something driver development or enhancing drivers" Sure: iScroll2 is a modified trackpad driver that adds two-finger scrolling capabilities to supported pre-2005 PowerBooks and iBooks on OS X 10.3.

  1. hayesk

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Good and bad

    I'm not surprised this is happening, though it is unfortunate. Apple does have to protect their business.

    Maybe Apple can put their "no-generic PC" hooks into Aqua, rather than Darwin, or maintain a simple way to add it in when they build MacOS X. Not sure how practical that is though.

  1. thestumper

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Didn't MacOS at some point have hooks into the BIOS? I'm ingnorant in such matters, but I had thought that I remembered discussing the whole OS porting/licensing thing years ago and the subject of the BIOS came up. Without the Apple approved BIOS, you were out of luck.

    Could someone please educate me as to what the h*** I'm talking about???

  1. JulesLt

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Just to add to this, running a pirated copy of OS-X would certainly be 'illegal' in most jurisdictions (copyright law) but breaking some parts of the EULA on purchased software may not actually be 'illegal' - in many cases EULA contain terms which are actually over-ridden by your statutory rights.

    It's a bit like when shops put up signs saying 'no refunds' - they are trying it on. Quite often they won't contest these things in courts because they won't stand.

    (Of course there are other barriers in the way - running Tiger x86 on non-Apple hardware will almost certainly involve breaking the DMCA. On the other hand, the DMCA is a US only law)

  1. Horsepoo!!!

    Joined: Dec 1969



    [quote] Even ppc versions are not allowed to be run on anything other than Apple hardware that was specifically made for Mac OS X. [/quote]

    If you read my post, I never said they were allowed to be run on anything other than Apple hardware. By saying you *can't even* run the single-license on two different *Apple* computers, it's implied that you can't run it on non-Apple hardware.

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