When Mac users strive to find information on Open Source applications for Mac OS X such as Konqueror or KOffice, they frequently end up reading rangerRick's weblog. This is because its author is also one of the people at the forefront of the porting.
A man who bought a Mac box to run Linux on it, he now devotes a lot of time to increasing the number of developer tools and finished applications jumping over from the Open Source world into the Mac OS X, especially Fink and the KDE applications.
He's been kind enough to grant us an email interview:
Macuarium First, som questions about the person and the work... Who is behing the RangerRick name?
Benjamin Reed As far as the RangerRick name itself, I answered that on my blog. Short version is: I picked it at random. =)
Macuarium Your web is a place of reference for a lot of information on the recent portings of Unix and Linux software to Mac OS X. Could you tell us about the projects you're working at?
Benjamin Reed Currently my biggest project is keeping my head above water keeping Fink stuff up-to-date (KDE, especially). I've also been working with the Mono folks on packaging, in preparation for Mono 1.0 being released.
On the back burner is making Cheesetracker run nicely on Mac OS X (a personal interest, I write music, too), the KDE/Mac port, and various other little side projects.
Macuarium What is the Metapkg Alliance?
Benjamin Reed At this point it's kind of stalled. It originally started out as a way for a number of different porting projects to share patches and ideas, but we never really got the infrastructure in place to make it happen. Currently email@example.com is a great way for me to feed my bayesian virus filters. =)
Too many of us have other things to work on and it just fell by the wayside. I always hope that maybe one of us will have time to pick it up again and make things happen, but everyone involved is so busy it doesn't seem likely any time soon...
Macuarium What do you hope to see in the Open Source / Mac OS arena in the next few years? (Apps, developments...)
Benjamin Reed I'd like to see more open-source software become native apps. If FilmGimp's work on porting GTK gets further along, and can really start looking native, it would help bring a lot of good GNOME apps to the platform with something other than using X11 as a compatibility layer.
Other than that, I'm not worried. Traditionally, Open Source stuff starts out slowly, and just keeps chugging along until they have something very portable and well-designed. It seems like we've started seeing the seeds of Open Source software that really "gets it" and integrates well with the Mac OS X environment. It took some time for the tools, and the developers, to get to the point where it's possible.
Macuarium For most Mac users, development is not a familiar activity. What should Mac users know about Open Source development and porting? What does a developer stand to gain from putting hundreds of hours into publicly available code?
Benjamin Reed There's so much to say, and better places than asking me to learn about what Open Source is in general. As for me, I do it because it's fun. I love to tinker with things, be it hardware or software or... whatever. I really hate to get too political about "Open Source" (or Free Software); personally, I think sharing is good, but I'm not militant about it. I work with Open Source software because it's fun to play with, and because there's nothing better than getting a "thank you" from a user. When it happens, it makes your week. =)
Macuarium Do you think Open Source development can compete with corporations on mission-critical software?
Benjamin Reed Certainly. It already does in many cases. Heck, Apple has done a reasonable job of pushing back into the business arena with the XServe, and Mac OS X has all kinds of Open Source software that's being put into mission-critical situations.
I don't think it's even a question of whether it can compete nowadays, it already is [doing so].
Macuarium Where do you think are the limits of OS?
Benjamin Reed Most of the limits seem to be more in expectations, especially users coming from Linux or other xNIXen. Doing development on Mac OS X is subtly different, and your end-users have a very different expectation of how software should work, and how it should integrate into the system, compared to Windows or other *NIX systems.
You can do most anything you want on the platform, but sometimes you do it differently than you would expect, coming from another OS. Things are getting better as more Open Source developers bring their tools along and get things working.
Macuarium How about it's future? What resources and websites would you reccomend to readers interested in the porting effort, Open Source development on Mac and ported applications?
Benjamin Reed Hm, I really don't know. Most of my research when I'm looking for new information revolves around asking on IRC, or Google. =)
That and I use NetNewsWire with probably at least 100 feeds from various sites, so I tend to keep up on what's happening in technology in general, and the mac world specifically, that way.
Macuarium Now we come to Apple, the Mac, and all things Jobs... How is Apple supporting or benefiting from the porting efforts?
Benjamin Reed I can't speak too well for the other porting efforts (and obviously OpenDarwin and DarwinPorts would have a different view on this), but Apple has traditionally been pretty quiet on the subject of Fink, despite the huge number of users we have (and the not insignificant number of users we have who said "I wouldn't have gotten a Mac if something like Fink wasn't available.") It kind of suprises me, really.
Macuarium How do you relate with the Darwin project people?
Benjamin Reed A number of us Finksters talk regularly with the OpenDarwin guys, we've collaborated on a couple of projects in the past and possibly in the future.
Macuarium What do you think they should change, add, or improve? How does the Unix side of Mac OS X development compare with other Unix/Linux development?
Benjamin Reed I think the Mac OS X platform as a whole seems to be solidifying pretty well. Most of the issues in porting are minor ones at this point, generally. Linking has traditionally been the most consistently confusing part of getting things ported to Mac OS X, and Peter O'Gorman's work on GNU libtool has made a lot of that fairly transparent to the user nowadays.
As for comparisons, other than a few differences API-wise from Linux and other *NIXes, development on the Mac OS X side is pretty similar to other systems nowadays. That wasn't always true, but with Panther a lot of the really difficult-to-work-around stuff has got easier.
Macuarium How do you see the future of Apple in general, and as a computer platform in particular? In relation with the "competition"?
Benjamin Reed I really haven't thought much about the future of Apple, other than they seem to be doing things right. They have a developer-friendly environment, which means, in the long-term, more software running on Mac OS X. The iPod and iTunes music store are both a huge boon. Other than that, I can't say. Apple's generally been very tight-lipped about the future, and I'm not a big fan of rumor mongering in general, so there isn't much to go on. =)
Macuarium How do you think the Open Source experience will change Apple?
Benjamin Reed I have no idea, I really wasn't a mac user before OSX, so I'm too late for the changes. They'd already adopted Open Source (although they still generally avoid GPL stuff if they can, for obvious reasons) by the time I got here.
I'm one of those Linux geeks who switched over. Actually, I'd originally bought my first mac to run Linux on, just because Apple makes nice hardware. I started out with a dual-boot with a little OSX partition, just to play, but after a while I just reformatted and now I'm all-OSX. =)
Macuarium What do you use your Mac for? Any other computers?
Benjamin Reed Other than Open Source tinkering, I use my mac for the same things most everyone else does -- e-mail, browsing the web, etc. I do have other computers as well.
I've got a powerbook 1.25 (my main system), a G4/800 (running Jaguar, for testing before putting things in Fink's 10.2-gcc3.3 tree), a PC (running Windows XP, Athlon somethingy-something 2200), and another PC with RAID in the closet, running Linux as a fileserver.
MacuariumThat's about all on our question list :-). Do you want to comment on any other matter?
Benjamin Reed Well, for those reading my blog, they'll notice I've slowed down a bit in the last few months. I've got a girlfriend (hi, Cynthia!) and we've been spending a lot of time together. I still work on Open Source stuff and keep up with Fink, but I spend more of my time not on the computer than I used to. =)