Apple this week released the latest source code for its Darwin open-source project — Darwin 6.7 and 6.8 — which corresponds to the Mac OS X operating system and its latest versions, 10.2.7 and 10.2.8. Version 10.2.8 was recalled this week by the Cupertino, California-based company because of a reported Ethernet problem.
Among the most prominent of open-source projects from Apple, Darwin is based on FreeBSD 4.4 and is the core of the Mac OS X operating system. Through the integration of BSD and Mach 3.0 technology — which was originally conceived as a communications microkernel that offers cooperative multitasking — Darwin can offer advanced services like sendmail capabilities and Apache Web server.
Despite Apple’s move to pull the Mac OS X 10.2.8 update because it reportedly disrupted Ethernet networking connectivity, developers still can download the latest Darwin source code, including versions 6.7 and 6.8 for OS X 10.2.7 and 10.2.8, from Apple’s Darwin release site.
Industry analyst Rob Enderle told TechNewsWorld that while Microsoft is often viewed as most threatened by Linux and open-source software, Sun Microsystems and Apple might be experiencing more pain from the penguin.
“Apple is no longer the only alternative,” he said. “In the past year and a half, it’s Linux that’s been picking up those folks.”
Enderle also said that, unlike Sun and Microsoft, which often make up open-source losses on the hardware side, the Linux migration represents completely lost — not missed — opportunities for Apple.
While the company continues work on open-source BSD software, Enderle said Apple’s direction with the open-source community has been somewhat unclear, with possibilities of working with Intel as well as Linux blurred by lack of a road map.
Apple claims substantial contributions from thousands of outside developers, stating on the Darwin developer site that most of the code in Darwin comes from “upstream” sources — the primary organizations that maintain source code — “with very little Apple-only development.”
However, Enderle said Apple’s open-source efforts do not appear to be contributing much to the company, although Apple is known for its “stealth” projects that involve substantial development efforts but quietly progress beneath the industry’s radar.
Apple said its primary focus for Darwin is the formation of a community of users and developers with source-code releases intended to support Mac OS X. Still, the company expects others will use Darwin to customize OS X with additional services and features that are not necessarily a priority for Apple.
Apple also said it expects Darwin — which cannot run higher-level OS X software, such as Cocoa and Carbon toolkits — to eventually become the foundation for a complete, stand-alone open-source operating system.
Enderle said that while Darwin has a long way to go before it is a completely self-contained OS, the source code does have near-term potential for Linux despite the uncertainty of Apple’s strategy to use the project.
Despite the continued availability of Darwin source code, Apple pulled the Mac OS X 10.2.8 update from its site after some users complained it had deactivated Ethernet connectivity.
The company called the move temporary and reportedly said the update only impacted a limited number of Power Mac G4 systems, but it had not yet offered a fix for the problem as of Friday.
Apple user discussion boards also indicated other issues with the update, and the company was criticized for poor quality-assurance controls and the inconvenience caused to its users.
Apple did not respond to requests for comment.