updated 01:20 pm EDT, Wed August 9, 2006
Apple limits Darwin access
Apple is stonewalling open-source developers despite the company's recent release of much of the Mac OS X Tiger kernel source code, according to Proclus, administrator of the GNU-Darwin Distribution. "In order to have a free and open source (FOSS) [operating] system, two things are necessary. First, all the necessary source code must be obtainable by anyone, and second the system must obviously be bootable in order to use it," Proclus told MacNN. "Darwin OS is not bootable without the AppleACPIPlatform driver, which is closed source [and proprietary] at this time."
Proclus said the team needs more information about building kernel extensions, and volunteered to help Apple in that area. The developer also expressed the need for the GNU-Darwin Distribution to see the source code for the AppleACPIPlatform driver -- which is necessary to boot the current Darwin OS -- or to receive a replacement driver. Apple replied, saying that it could not make the requested sources available.
"From a certain standpoint, it is a joke to release the kernel source code without releasing the AppleACPIPlatform driver," said Proclus. "As a result, people are getting disinformed now."
The AppleACPIPlatform is a fundamental hardware driver which is loaded at boot time. The driver is required before Darwin can be a FOSS operating system again, according to Proclus, and any claim that Darwin is again FOSS would be misleading at this time.
"Either Apple can release the source code for this one driver, or a new replacement driver can be built by the developer community. Obviously GNU-Darwin would like to see that happen."
The GNU-Darwin Distribution predates OpenDarwin as a distributor of Darwin-related software and sources, pledging to continue operations despite OpenDarwin's recent closure.
"We would like to maintain concurrency with Apple's version of Darwin, so that we can better serve the Apple community by providing our free software offerings to them, both now and in the future," said Proclus. "We provide many thousands of free software packages in addition to the operating system and source code. We also make a point of educating and helping people understand software freedom and open source."