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February 24, 1988

UNIX FOR THE APPLE MACINTOSH II IS HERE – BUT IS NOT SO FRIENDLY AS MACDOS

By CBR Staff Writer

Apple Computer Inc reportedly held back the launch of its A/UX Unix for the Macintosh II in order to make a big splash at the Uniforum show in Dallas, Texas earlier this month, with chairman John Sculley taking over the keynote speech to make the announcement. Based on System V Interface Definition-compatible Unix V.2.2 with Berkeley 4.2 and 4.3 extensions, A/UX was developed in conjunction with Unisoft Corp, and is supplied fully loaded on hard disk. It comes coupled with a Macintosh Toolbox held in read-only memory, enabling A/UX programmers to combine the Mac interface with their products at source level – but it does not come complete with a full front-end to Unix. X Window is supported as an option. Communications options include TCP/IP and the Network File System. Apple says that existing Macintosh Operating System applications will run unchanged using the Launch shell emulation product, if they have been written to conform to Apple’s Inside Macintosh programming guidelines, set down in 1984. Unfortunately, estimates put the number of programs conforming to these rules as around 250 out of the 3,000 or so Mac products currently available. Part of the effort at Uniforum was to persuade developers to modify existing Mac programs or port over Unix applications. Text-oriented code is reportedly a simple port, though graphics-based software could take longer. Adapting Unix software to use the Mac interface was said by an Apple spokesman to be not an easy task, as with any windowing software, but well documented. Software on the stand included the MacNIX/A interface for locating and accessing files via icons by List SpA of Pisa, Italy; an implementation of Sun Microsystems’ NeWs windowing system by the Grasshopper Group, San Francisco, California; the Wingz spreadsheet from Informix Software Inc, Menlo Park, California (previously Innovative Software); Statview II statistical analysis and graphics package from Abacus Concepts Inc, Berkeley, California; and Intermedia, a hypermedia system for integrating text, graphics and data within a database framework. The European edition of A/UX has been held back due to the implementation of the Data Encryption Standard in the kernel; a worldwide version will be available in early April. A/UX came into some criticism for its size – 56Mb on an 80Mb hard disk – although Apple says that dealers will be unlikely to supply all the features, reducing it to a more manageable 30Mb or so. A/UX is booted up from MacDOS, which is then pushed aside for A/UX to take full control. To return to MacDOS, the machine must be re-booted, and presently file transfer between the two environments is not possible on the same machine. Apple says it is putting a lot of work into bringing the two closer together, and intends A/UX to become more Mac-like in future editions.

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