Beyond Steve’s RDF

June 6, 2005 at 8:45 pm | Posted in Macintosh | Leave a comment

I must have been drinking too much Kool-Aid this morning.

Apple released their Universal Binary Programming Guide and a rough scan of the contents doesn’t sound too hopeful for those whose code does not match certain expectations.

Programming the x86 is truly a PITA. Using Apple’s API helps, but it will be painful for those who rely on PowerPC behavior and/or use low-level instructions. Those who program at a higher-level will probably have to program more defensively. I suppose this is good news since it will keep programmers working hard for some time to come, but at a cost of slowing down or pausing other plans for their Mac applications. As was said in the keynote, it all depends on your code and your build environment.

Some short sections from the above document showing the problems involved going to x86:

  • Appendix A: Rosetta > What Can Be Translated?
    This is the biggie with lots of limitations: PowerPC code on Intel will run as an emulated G3. Forget Classic code. Forget 68k code (bye bye Hypercard!). Forget Altivec. Forget G4 or G5 specific code. Forget hardware drivers using kernel extensions. Apple wants to go Intel. Fast. Really fast.

  • Architectural Differences > Byte Order
  • Architectural Differences > Divide-by-zero operations.
  • Guidelines for Specific Scenarios > Open Firmware. What Open Firmware?
  • Appendix B. Ugly ugly ugly. I don’t know Altivec programming, but this section shows how elegant the PowerPC instruction set was. I feel sorry for the programmers who had to learn detailed Altivec programming in order to get the most out of the PowerPC (as opposed to those who just checked the Altivec flag in their code generation preferences. Sometimes it pays to be lazy and let Apple figure it all out).

OSX isn’t the only one who’s getting a brain transplant. I think a lot of Mac developers will be heading to the Intel “re-education camps” the next few months. I will gladly wait for the glorious products promised today. All Hail the Beneficent Wisdom of Chairman Jobs!

[Seriously, I do like what has happened. I plan on buying the first fruits of the Apple-Intel partnership.]

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