Open-source Darwin? Not yet

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."

  1. diamondsw 08/09, 01:33pm

    Why are we posting what is essentially a rant by Proclus? Darwin is not a GNU system, and AFAIK never has been.

    There is no value in Darwin being a standalone free operating system. The last 5 years have shown that. There is definite use to software developers having source access, but that goal has already been met.

    Whine somewhere else.

  1. j0nkatz 08/09, 01:38pm

    Apple should wake up and listen to some one that goes by Proclus. I can hear it now...

    Steve Jobs: Someone call up Proclus and ask him about Open Darwin! If he's not there call 31337 h**** or someone like that.

  1. ZinkDifferent 08/09, 01:55pm

    ...some whine with that rant, Proclus...?

  1. debohun 08/09, 02:02pm

    Isn't this about another issue, of Apple attempting to capitalize on the open source movement without actually being a fully committed contributor? Sort of like their use of the term UNIX without licensing it through proper channels? I'm sure both issues are a lot more complicated, but reports on these issues don't paint Apple with a flattering brush.

  1. Jonaziz 08/09, 02:49pm

    I see Apple as contributing by opening as much as they do. Would you prefer Apple invent tons of standards come up with three letter monickers that start with X and then try to force them as a standard? ... not implying anything bad about companies whose names start with M and end in icrosoft.

  1. chadpengar 08/09, 02:55pm

    Reader "debohun" should inform himself/herself before making such ridiculous comments. Apple DOES contribute to a LOT of open source projects in a fully open way. This one issue in no way makes Apple less of an open source contributor. It sounds like Apple releases this piece as a binary (?) and Proclus is complaining that he doesn't have the source. That in no way makes Apple less of an Open Source contributor.

  1. jpellino 08/09, 03:43pm

    stand on the OSS principles and watch as apple goes away from piracy and has zero contributions to OSS

    or get 99.99999% of their platform as OSS and reap the benefits of webkit, bonjour, etc.

  1. mrburke 08/09, 06:16pm

    I can't believe that MacNN ran this as a news story. This is a rant by some teenage kid that Apple won't give him the majic key that would let the OS run on any Intel Box. If is ANYTHING else than tell us why you need access to the source of that driver. Proclus tell us why you need access to it and why the OS is not open source if you can't get it.

  1. clebin 08/10, 09:19am

    So many zealots in this thread. He may or may not be "teenage kid", but as administrator of a Darwin distro, he knows a bit about how Apple handles open-source.

    Apple pushed Darwin as a complete operating system that actually booted and people invested their time in it. They took their time releasing the Darwin source, failing to explain why (obviously they don't mind losing open-source developers on it) and now apparently they release it without the necessary bits to boot - the "majic [sic] key" if you will. That's news-worthy.

  1. mrburke 08/10, 01:39pm


    Darwin does boot. You need the use the apple suppled driver. This driver contains apple's DRM code and therefore can not realisticly be open source. So I state my point again this is not news worthy and it is very missleading to day that Darwin is not open. And once again all ask the question: "Why does anyone need the source to this driver?"

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