updated 09:20 am EDT, Wed May 17, 2006
OS X for Intel locked down
Users cannot build a custom kernel for their Intel-based Mac OS X systems. Infoworld reports that Apple has closed down Mac OS X by refusing to release the source code for Intel version of the Darwin open source Mach/Unix core--in part due to the fear of users pirating the operating system for cheaper PC clones. "The Darwin open source Mach/Unix core shared by OS X Tiger client and OS X Tiger Server remains completely open for PowerPC Macs. If you have a G3, G4, or G5 Mac, you can hack your own Darwin kernel and use it to boot OS X. But if you have an Intel-based Mac desktop or notebook, your kernel and device drivers are inviolable. Apple still publishes the source code for OS X's commands and utilities and laudably goes several extra miles by open sourcing internally developed technologies such as QuickTime Streaming Server and Bonjour zero-config networking. The source code required to build a customized OS X kernel, however, is gone. Apple says that the state of an OS X-compatible open source x86 Darwin kernel is 'in flux.'"
The report notes that while only client versions of Mac OS X for Intel-based machines have been released so far, the server version may be affected more by Apple's apparent change in philosophy.
"Apple has only shipped client systems, the users of which care least about openness. Soon, though, Apple will break out Intel variants of the kinds of machines that InfoWorld readers buy and on which I depend; namely, servers and workstations," according to the Infoworld columnist. "I hope that Apple's flux settles into a strategy that favors demanding users and developers."
Performance is one reason users may want a custom kernel--especially with the forthcoming release of server- or workstation-based Macs using 64-bit Intel ships (rather than the 32-bit chips used in current Intel-based Macs).
"Apple's retreat to a proprietary kernel means that all users must accept a fixed level of performance. The default OS X kernels are built for broad compatibility rather than breakneck speed and throughput," according to the report.