Apple closes down Mac OS X for Intel kernel to stem piracy

“Thanks to pirates, or rather the fear of them, the Intel edition of Apple’s OS X is now a proprietary operating system,” Tom Yager reports for InfoWorld. “Mac developers and power users no longer have the freedom to alter, rebuild, and replace the OS X kernel from source code… The Darwin open source Mach/Unix core shared by OS X Tiger client and OS X Tiger Server remains completely open for PowerPC Macs. If you have a G3, G4, or G5 Mac, you can hack your own Darwin kernel and use it to boot OS X. But if you have an Intel-based Mac desktop or notebook, your kernel and device drivers are inviolable. Apple still publishes the source code for OS X’s commands and utilities and laudably goes several extra miles by open sourcing internally developed technologies such as QuickTime Streaming Server and Bonjour zero-config networking. The source code required to build a customized OS X kernel, however, is gone. Apple says that the state of an OS X-compatible open source x86 Darwin kernel is ‘in flux.'”

“Apple is in the unique position of losing hardware sales to software pirates. It faces the risk of cloned Macs being distributed in foreign markets where intellectual property protection is weak. I empathize. But there are ways to address the piracy issue without stripping the critical and defining quality of openness from OS X,” Yager writes.

Full article here.

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24 Comments

  1. No, I think we’re discussing Steve the Pirate.

    You know . . . from Dodgeball!

    The movie that also had Justin Long in it. The “Mac” from the current “Mac & PC” commercials.

    Huh. Six degrees of separation and all that.

    “Arrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggghhhhhhh”

  2. This is not news. Nothing has changed in the status of the Darwin/Intel code since the Intel Macs first shipped.

    The primary benefit to Apple of an open source kernel is that they can reap the benefits of all sorts of people developing, and they need to spend less of their developer support time debugging other people’s device drivers. The primary drawback is that anyone can read it, which opens it to problems with copyright violations and DRM avoidance. In the case of the PPC architecture, Apple judged that the drawbacks were worth the risks. In the case of the Intel architecture, Apple judged that they were not.

    In either case, this judgment was made monthsago.

    (The article seemed to be pretty confused, besides — I don’t know of anyone who recompiled Darwin as a custom kernel on PPC. The benefits to using an open source kernel are so that the community )

    Someone cranked the FUD machine up to 11, methinks. (MDN word: “efforts,” as in “their efforts are pointless.”)

  3. “I don’t know of anyone who recompiled Darwin as a custom kernel on PPC.”

    I did when I was writing Kernel Extensions.

    Of course, with 10.1-10.3, Apple had very little documentation for the Kernel. The general response from Apple DTS was, “Well, go look at the source code.”

    10.4 introduced the KPIs, as I understand it–I’m not really in that business anymore–to keep developers from doing things that confused the Kernel. So maybe there’s less need to have build your own Kernel to try to debug this stuff…

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