Apple Open Source Returns

by Devanshu Mehta Aug 10, 2006

Apple’s support for open source is not dead after all, despite a slew of reports to the contrary, including my own. Apple open source lives.

On Monday, in a single email on its Darwin-dev mailing list, Apple Open Source Product Manager Ernest Prabhakar posted the following:

As of today, we are posting buildable kernel sources for Intel-based Macs alongside the usual PowerPC (and other Intel) sources, starting with Mac OS X 10.4.7. We regret the delay in readying the new kernel for release, and thank you for your patience.

This, in and of itself, is tremendous news. Until recently, Apple support for open source seemed dead in the water. The Intel sources of the kernel had not been made available on the same schedule as the PowerPC and there were clear indications that this would not change.

We may never find out if the hue and cry raised on many web sites, including Apple Matters, played a role in Apple’s satisfying message of a return to open source support, but the good news is that the support will not stop at kernel sources. They have a lot more in the pipeline.

Mac OS Forge for Community Projects
Mac OS Forge is a new community web site hosted and sponsored by Apple. At the moment, it serves as a host for all the open source projects announced on Monday but it appears that it will grow in the future.

As of now, it hosts the Darwin (iCal) Calendar Server that should be a part of Leopard server, Bonjour service discovery, Launchd, the XNU Mac OS X kernel and the Apple Web Kit.

The web site is sparse but each project contains at least a project news, downloads and contact information page.

Darwin Calendar Server
The other open source announcement was the introduction of the Apache 2.0 licensed Darwin Calendar Server. This is an iCal server that will be part of the Leopard server and may be ripe for adaptation to other platforms. In order to provide interoperability with multiple calendaring clients, the server implements the CalDAV protocol. For those interested, the Apache 2.0 license is mildly GPL incompatible but largely a very permissive open source license.

Bonjour and Launchd
Bonjour, formerly Rendezvous, is a major Apple feature for zero-configuration networking between computers on a LAN. It has been rolled in to iChat, iTunes, iPhoto, and many other Apple and third-party applications for communication and sharing data.

Launchd is a behind-the-scenes framework that helps manage many operating system services that OS X provides. Both of these services had their sources available only under the slightly restrictive Apple Public Source License but is now being re-licensed under the Apache 2.0 license. Both projects are hosted at the Mac OS Forge.

Intel Kernel Sources
This was the most requested and recently, least expected of the lot. The mailing list email thanks the developer community for its patience, but that may be an understatement. The community had moved beyond patience, beyond exasperation and in to a full retreat. Recently, the Open Darwin project folded and one of the reasons it cited for pulling the plug was a lack of support from Apple.

Now, the wait is over. The Intel XNU Mac OS X kernel, in addition to the PowerPC one, has now been released in source form and it seems like the relationship between them is back to its former love-hate stage.

The community at large is in a “wait and watch” mode. They have been burnt in the past and with recent bad news in the community, there is a bit of resentment.  This move by Apple is a big one and is necessary to rejuvenate the developer community before the Mac OS X Leopard release rolls around.


  • Sweet picture!

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Aug 10, 2006 Posts: 371
  • As an open source developer I can’t wait to see what emerges from this.  I’d love to come up with some of my own contributions or projects.

    BTW, that’s an awesome pic.  I usually don’t care for the cute kitty pics, but drop an Apple laptop in there and I’m smitten.

    veridicus had this to say on Aug 10, 2006 Posts: 6
  • What did you feed (or show) that kitten? Gotta be that PowerBook’s sweetness.

    Good one, Dev. I am enlightened to hear that Apple did their recourse and released the kernel sources for OSX 10.4.7 and hopefully, ALL succeeding builds from here on.

    ...had their sources available only under the slightly restrictive Apple Public Source License but is now being re-licensed under the Apache 2.0 license.

    I use and codify my nuances to Apache 2 before building and if Apple has same EULA as Apache 2, this can be a huge thing for the Mac community.

    A Mac devo can finally embed these components with your own work and not worry about the licensing issues (as long as your work falls under the same Apache licensing, of course). You can also pay a small royalty to each IP owner if you decide to keep your developments under a commercial terms. I think this is what Apple now intends to do with their IPs under the Apache 2 license.

    If Apple dumps their all APSL-licensed codes in favor of Apache 2 EULA, it is all good to me.

    Robomac had this to say on Aug 10, 2006 Posts: 846
  • Awww….

    Kitty on PowerBook!

    Tiger had this to say on Aug 11, 2006 Posts: 14
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