Ex-Apple official critiques open-source project

A former Apple Computer Inc. official who participated in development of Darwin, an open-source version of the Mac OS X operating system, had some criticism of the project during a session at the O'Reilly Mac OS X conference here on Thursday.

After providing details on the history of Apple's foray into open source, Wilfredo Sanchez Vega reflected on what he saw as shortcomings.

Darwin as an operating system is not that interesting, according to Vega. OpenDarwin represents a standalone Unix system, but the world does not need another Unix system, Vega said.

The OpenDarwin project is an attempt to provide a binary-compatible development environment for Mac OS X, according to the OpenDarwin.org Web site. The OpenDarwin project is based on latest sources available from the Darwin project, and a key aspect is to enable Mac OS X and Darwin developers to be able to build and distribute operating system changes.

"Darwin is not going to be the world's coolest Unix anytime soon," Vega said. "The reason Darwin's interesting is because it's part of Mac OS X."

There are issues with a lack of processes for fixing easy bugs in Darwin, said Vega.

But an Apple official expressed optimism that issues raised about Darwin are fixable. "[Vega is] not telling Apple anything we don't know that can be improved about the process," said Ernie Prabhakar, Apple product line manager for Unix and developers.

"We've gotten into open source, which is often painful," Prabhakar said.

"We know we're not anywhere we'd like to be, but we're going to keep chipping away at it, and hopefully [Vega] will have a completely different list" of issues next year, Prabhakar said.

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