The Northern Spy: a look at being 'insanely proprietary'
TweetFollow Us on Twitter

The Northern Spy: a look at being 'insanely proprietary'

By Rick Sutcliffe
Being insanely proprietary can be both a strength and/or a weakness. On the negative side of the ledger, HP, Xerox, and IBM, by not being more particular about their in-house inventions and IP, all lost opportunities to dominate the personal computing market.

Oh, yes, IBM did for a while, but because the software was controlled by Microsoft, and wasn't exclusive, clones eventually turned their boxes into commodities, and they exited the market rather than compete on a consumer level — much to the Spy's surprise and chagrin, for he believes it was and remains a mistake. It wasn't a bad as Canadian Pacific exiting the telecommunications business in favour of Rogers, but of the same nature — abandoning participation in technological future megabucks for a handful of present-day dollars.

Yes, and one can scarcely count the number of technology companies that fell by the wayside due to complacency, failure of vision, lack of innovation, badly timed or marketed products, poor management, or internal disputes. The list is longer than this space, and grows by the year, with Blackberry and Sony in immediate danger, and Microsoft already on the deathwatch list. (PC sales are in steep decline, and Apple sales in equally steep increase — there are boing to be big casualties, and soon.)

Apple may be the ultimate practitioner of secrecy and producer of proprietary technology, and this has served the company well in most instances. The hardware is not easy to clone with any fidelity, the operating system is entirely in house, manufacturing is tightly controlled, vertical integration is the order of the day, and security rivals that laid on for a U.S. Presidential luncheon with the Pope at an Arab-owned restaurant in Jerusalem.m Look for more of the same--ventures into controlling entertainment content, delivery, and even the infrastructure for same, including big announcements this year.

Apple's few deviations have been costly. The experiment with allowing Macintosh clones had the smell of desperation, but was terminated before it got out of hand. Licensing some IP to Microsoft allowed the latter to create Windows — an MS-DOS extension and cheap imitation knockoff of Apple's OS — all too similar down to the programming interfaces, but fortunately for Apple, poorly enough executed to allow them to move on to much better, and now produced by a company that seems to have run out of ideas and lost its way. A Steve Jobs in charge of Microsoft would have eaten Apple alive when it was at the bottom of its cycle. His successors will do the same in reverse.

Keeping secrets has helped the marketing effort too. Months of speculation and rumours precede every product announcement, creating a pent up demand that results in a feeding frenzy on the day of introduction, and gooses publicity and subsequent sales to insane heights until the next round starts.

However (and you knew one of those was coming), the very proprietariness and NIH attitude that serves the bottom line in some ways can detract from critical mindspace in others. A case in point is Cupertino's gradually tightening noose on developers. Yes of course Apple wants to protect users and keep the ecosystem consistent, so requiring all development to be in Objective-C, done in XCode, signed, and approved before going into the Apple store partially makes one kind of sense.

But it does discourage, even choke off, any other kind of development. Apple is gradually making it more difficult to do experimental work, program in other languages, or even do certain kinds of research that require the installation of tools once included by Apple, but now omitted. Up to recent versions of XCode, for instance, an install came complete with various command line tools, not all of which were essential to developing inside the narrow confines of the store system.
These have been left out of XCode 5. At first, they could still be installed in the Terminal by typing:

xcode-select --install

but even this no longer works, as Apple has removed the command line tools from its server, and the command fails. At this point, ports or homebrew can still install most of what is needed. For instance, the following sequence installs homebrew, checks the installation, finds versions of gcc, and installs the (currently) most recent gcc.

ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.github.com/Homebrew/homebrew/go/install)"
brew doctor
brew update
brew search gcc
brew tap homebrew/versions
brew install gcc49

Yes, Apple still has a C++ in the form of clang, but unless packages that depend on it are re-coded in many places their projects will not compile against clang without numerous errors. In the Spy's case, he wanted a combination of the Alpha programming editor, the p1 Modula-2 compiler, XCode (and gcc) to work with the RASS library from ETH. All this was to test programs for a new dialect of Modula-2 — possible because there is substantial syntax overlap. Each of these four products is under active development, but only certain version combinations play correctly together, and Apple's constant changes to the XCode language environments and the APIs mean that developers require one environment to program within the Apple ecosystem, and others to do anything else.

Now the Spy fully understands that Apple wants things done a certain way for products it approves on its own OS, but for tools that, though Apple no longer needs them, developers may, and they do no harm installed, not installing them by default may make limited sense, but making it hard to obtain them at all just annoys developers. Programming environments are large and slow-moving. People who depend on them ought to be given more consideration and less grief. Developers are your friends, iTim, not your manipulatives.

Wasn't the Internet supposed to lower barriers, spread love and kindness,reduce prejudice, blur national boundaries, generally homogenize the human race, and put an end to war?

The Spy never thought so. After all, the nineteenth century goddess of progress in earlier technology was tasked with the same expectations, and eventuated only catastrophic failure. So, writing back in the 1980s, he opined that once the Metalibrary was instantiated and we were all brought virtually closer to one another's penchants, opinions, religions, cultures, ethnicity, and warts, it was at least as likely that dislikes, tensions, and hatreds would be exacerbated.

Indeed, he predicted that when the Iron Curtain came down, the ethnic groups in some of the eastern European artificial countries such as Yugoslavia, freed of the restraining Russian fist, would revert to their centuries-old hobby of cutting each others' throats. That enforced conglomerate broke part in bloody civil war, the old Soviet Union fragmented in Russia's economic and military exhaustion, Czeckoslovakia split more peacefully, and now it appears to be Ukraine's turn, for the guns are out once again.

However the divisions that people grow to hate the closer they see them need not be historic, religious, ethnic or linguistic as they are in Europe. They may be political, social, economic, or cultural. Chat room, bulletin board, Twitter, and Facebook debates do not produce consensus — they heighten tensions and sharpen differences more rapidly than ever. Why? Because we no longer live in a civil society, don't have a common code of ethics, behaviour, speech, or honour, and most people don't discuss issues. Even our parliamentary houses host debates that are at best mere show — not intended to conciliate or forge consensus ideas, but to rub the noses of the minority in their loss to the majority.

Elsewhere, things are worse, for so-called debate is often mere mud-slinging vituperation, and ad hominem attacks bent on destroying the credibility of opponents without conceding the finest point. Does someone have the temerity to disagree with you, Oh great and grand high-poobah of Sala-ma-sond who can never be wrong about the smallest detail? Why not steal a database of your opponents' associates, scour web sites for the email addresses of politicians, retail stores, churches, community associations and Internet businesses, then use it and any net forum you can think of to hurl mud, slander, false stories, disrespect, and vile names?

And before you say "Why not? It's a free country," stop and think. For how long? Are we in the west creating social, economic, religious, and political divides founded on the same kind of suspicion, ghettoization, vilification, and ultimately hatred that point us to the same fate as Yugoslavia and her imitators?

Sorry to decline participation, but the Spy would rather be out voted on the result of a debate or an election that he engaged politely, civilly, positively, and honourably, than "win" it with what have become the standard uncivil attack methods. Win what? Worse, such "winning" is pyrrhic — really a loss, and if we don't want Western Europe, the United States, and Canada to follow in the Eastern Europe march of madness, we'll step back from the rhetoric. It's too late there (the west has no appetite to intervene, especially given experience in the Middle East and Africa), and we may even be seeing the re-assertion of bully Soviet Union to keep order by force.

Can us turn from our own course before our political, social, moral, and religious hatreds mean it is too late? Maybe. Communication technology, like all its siblings, is neither a goddess nor an end, but a means. The question is to what end? Free speech will only remain free if it is responsible, and no heights of technology can overcome its users' incivility and penchant for hatred. Let's turn this thing around. The alternative is playing out before us.

--The Northern Spy

Opinions expressed here are entirely the author's own, and no endorsement is implied by any community or organization to which he may be attached. Rick Sutcliffe, (a.k.a. The Northern Spy) is professor of Computing Science and Mathematics at Canada's Trinity Western University. He has been involved as a member or consultant with the boards of several community and organizations, and participated in developing industry standards at the national and international level. He is a co-author of the Modula-2 programming language R10 dialect. He is a long time technology author and has written two textbooks and nine novels, one named best ePublished SF novel for 2003. His columns have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers (paper and online), and he's a regular speaker at churches, schools, academic meetings, and conferences. He and his wife Joyce have lived in the Aldergrove/Bradner area of BC since 1972.

Want to discuss this and other Northern Spy columns? Surf on over to ArjayBB.com. Participate and you could win free web hosting from the WebNameHost.net subsidiary of Arjay Web Services. Rick Sutcliffe's fiction can be purchased in various eBook formats from Fictionwise, and in dead tree form from Amazon's Booksurge.

URLs for Rick Sutcliffe's Arjay Enterprises:

The Northern Spy Home Page: http://www.TheNorthernSpy.com
opundo : http://opundo.com
Sheaves Christian Resources : http://sheaves.org
WebNameHost : http://www.WebNameHost.net
WebNameSource : http://www.WebNameSource.net
nameman : http://nameman.net

General URLs for Rick Sutcliffe's Books:

Author Site: http://www.arjay.ca
Publisher's Site: http://www.writers-exchange.com/Richard-Sutcliffe.html
URLs for items mentioned in this column
p1 Modula-2: http://modula2.awiedemann.de/
ETH RAMSES/RASS project: http://www.sysecol.ethz.ch/RAMSES/RASS.html
AlphaX programming editor: http://alphatcl.sourceforge.net/wiki/pmwiki.php/Software/AlphaX
Modula-2 R10--see the link at: http://www.modula-2.com/

 
AAPL
$101.32
Apple Inc.
+0.74
MSFT
$45.15
Microsoft Corpora
-0.07
GOOG
$582.56
Google Inc.
-0.81

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Garmin Express 3.2.17.0 - Manage your Ga...
Garmin Express is your essential tool for managing your Garmin devices. Update maps, golf courses and device software. You can even register your device. Update maps Update software Register your... Read more
Audio Hijack Pro 2.11.1 - Record and enh...
Audio Hijack Pro drastically changes the way you use audio on your computer, giving you the freedom to listen to audio when you want and how you want. Record and enhance any audio with Audio Hijack... Read more
calibre 2.0.0 - Complete e-library manag...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital... Read more
Apple iMovie 10.0.5 - Edit personal vide...
With an all-new design, Apple iMovie lets you enjoy your videos like never before. Browse your clips more easily, instantly share your favorite moments, and create beautiful HD movies and Hollywood-... Read more
Apple Keynote 6.2.2 - Apple's prese...
Apple Keynote makes it simple to create and deliver beautiful presentations. Powerful tools and dazzling effects bring your ideas to life. You can work seamlessly between Mac and iOS devices. And... Read more
Apple Numbers 3.2.2 - Apple's sprea...
With Apple Numbers, sophisticated spreadsheets are just the start. The whole sheet is your canvas. Just add dramatic interactive charts, tables, and images that paint a revealing picture of your data... Read more
OpenOffice 4.1.1 - Free and open-source...
OpenOffice.org is both an Open Source product and a project. The product is a multi-platform office productivity suite. It includes the key desktop applications, such as a word processor,... Read more
Pages 5.2.2 - Apple's word processo...
Apple Pages is a powerful word processor that gives you everything you need to create documents that look beautiful. And read beautifully. It lets you work seamlessly between Mac and iOS devices. And... Read more
Quicken 2015 2.0.1 - Complete personal f...
The new Quicken 2015 helps you manage all your personal finances in one place, so you can see where you're spending and where you can save. Quicken automatically categorizes your financial... Read more
CleanMyMac 2.2.7 - Delete files that was...
CleanMyMac makes space for the things you love. Sporting a range of ingenious new features, CleanMyMac 2 lets you safely and intelligently scan and clean your entire system, delete large, unused... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Trolls vs Vikings Update Adds Over One H...
Trolls vs Vikings Update Adds Over One Hundred Levels, Reduces Item Cost, and More Posted by Ellis Spice on August 22nd, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
SNK Celebrates the 20th Anniversary of T...
SNK Celebrates the 20th Anniversary of The King of Fighters With a Big Sale Posted by Ellis Spice on August 22nd, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
It Came From Canada: Star Wars: Commande...
With a brand new Star Wars trilogy on the horizon, prepare yourselves for Disney and George Lucas’s space fantasy throwback to be more omnipresent than ever before. So it should come as no surprise that new adventures in that galaxy far, far away... | Read more »
Swing Copters Review
Swing Copters Review By Jordan Minor on August 22nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: DIE TRYINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad The creator of Flappy Bird is back with a vengeance.   | Read more »
Beam Me an Update Scotty – Star Trek Tre...
Beam Me an Update Scotty – Star Trek Trexels Receives its Biggest Update Yet Posted by Jessica Fisher on August 22nd, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
The Outcast Review
The Outcast Review By Nadia Oxford on August 22nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: HANDS OFF. WAY OFF.Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad It’s easy to see what The Outcast is trying for, but its execution needs a lot of work.   | Read more »
HeroCraft Unveils New iOS Game, Marble D...
HeroCraft Unveils New iOS Game, Marble Duel Posted by Jessica Fisher on August 22nd, 2014 [ permalink ] HeroCraft is developing a new chain popper game called Marble Duel, wh | Read more »
Brain+ Review
Brain+ Review By Nadia Oxford on August 22nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: DIM BULBUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Brain+ is just another entry in an over-saturated brain-training marketplace – and not a particularly fun entry... | Read more »
The Witcher Battle Arena – New Gameplay...
The Witcher Battle Arena – New Gameplay Trailer Revealed Posted by Jessica Fisher on August 22nd, 2014 [ permalink ] Based in the Witcher universe, | Read more »
Max Gentlemen Review
Max Gentlemen Review By Jennifer Allen on August 22nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: OUTSTAYING ITS WELCOMEiPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad Max Gentlemen seems pretty quirky initially but that appeal wears thin... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Updated Mac Price Trackers
We’ve updated our Mac Price Trackers with the latest information on prices, bundles, and availability on systems from Apple’s authorized internet/catalog resellers: - 15″ MacBook Pros - 13″ MacBook... Read more
Leftover 15-inch 2.0GHz Retina MacBook Pros a...
B&H Photo has leftover previous-generation 15″ 2.0GHz Retina MacBook Pros now available for $1599 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $400 off original MSRP. B&H... Read more
Pro.Calendar – New Productivity App for iPad...
Austin, Texas based mobile business and productivity app developer LightArrow, Inc. has announced Pro.Calendar, a powerful and intuitive calendar app with eight versatile calendar options including... Read more
SanDisk Ultra II SSD — Supercharge Your Syste...
SanDisk Corporation has announced the new SanDisk Ultra II SSD with enhanced SSD Dashboard. The new drive is designed to deliver a cost-effective and easy upgrade solution for PC owners looking to... Read more
Samsung and Barnes & Noble Introduce New...
Samsung Electronics America and NOOK Media, a subsidiary of Barnes & Noble, Inc. have announced the introduction of the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK, a 7-inch tablet combining Samsung’s leading... Read more
21-inch iMacs on sale for up to $150 off MSRP
B&H Photo has 21″ iMacs on sale for up to $150 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. B&H will also include a free copy of Parallels Desktop software: - 21″ 2.7GHz iMac: $... Read more
27-inch 3.2GHz iMac on sale for $1698, save $...
Abt has the 27″ 3.2GHz iMac on sale for $1698 including free shipping. Their price is $101 off MSRP. Read more
Mac Backup Guru 2.0 Drive Backup/Cloneing Uti...
Mac Backup Guru developer MacDaddy has released Mac Backup Guru 2.0, offering new and enhanced advanced features, such as bootable backups, synchronised volumes and folders, and a Snapshot mode that... Read more
Operate GE’s New Free-Standing KItchen Range...
Think you accidentally left the oven on? Switch it off while on the go. The new free-standing Profile™ Series gas and electric ranges are GE’s second cooking appliances, following their wall oven, to... Read more
Parallels Announces Parallels Desktop 10 for...
The no. 1-selling software for running Windows applications on a Mac becomes an even easier choice for millions of consumers and IT professionals worldwide with the launch of the most powerful... Read more

Jobs Board

Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
…customers purchase our products, you're the one who helps them get more out of their new Apple technology. Your day in the Apple Store is filled with a range of Read more
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** As businesses discover the power of Apple computers and mobile devices, it's your job - as a Solutions Engineer - to show them how to introduce these Read more
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** At the Apple Store, you connect business professionals and entrepreneurs with the tools they need in order to put Apple solutions to work in their Read more
Project Manager / Business Analyst, WW *Appl...
…a senior project manager / business analyst to work within our Worldwide Apple Fulfillment Operations and the Business Process Re-engineering team. This role will work Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.