OSX on x86-how difficult?

Discussion in 'General Mac Discussion' started by vniow, Nov 21, 2002.

  1. vniow macrumors G4

    Jul 18, 2002
    I accidentally my whole location.
    I've heard from various people around here that OSX for x86 would be nothing more than a simple recompile.
    I've also heard that it takes a lot more than that.

    I'd like to settle this once and for all.

    How much trouble would it be to make OSX and all it's native apps to run on the x86 platform? Is it like Linux where it just takes some compiling or is it way more complex?
    I do NOT want to hear all the ever-so-repeated reasons why Apple shouldn't move over to this platform, I just want to know how difficult it would be for them should they go in that direction.

    Thank you.
  2. firewire2001 macrumors 6502a

    Apr 2, 2002
    Hong Kong
    Re: OSX on x86-how difficult?

    something that hasnt been very clear is whether rumors are pointing towards apple allowing their os to run on third party machines, or if apple is to make their os compatible with processors that sport the x86 architecture. this is leading to quite a bit of confusion - as previous rumors have aimed more towards the thought that apple will allow their os to be run on third party machines... however, more recently rumors have been focused upon the hardware side and apple creating their os to run on their very own x86 processors and machines.

    from there, it really depends upon who you're talking to.

    people with the notion that apple will create an os that would run on their hardware would more than likely say that the os could easily be no more than a re-compile.. and in fact, it wouldnt require much more than that because they could use the same sort of hardware, used on their ppc motherboards, etc; on their x86 machines, allowing them to simply recompile also the drivers for this hardware.

    however, writing the os for third party systems is a very different task in itself. it would require a combination of simply re-compiling parts of the os, and would require a lot of new coding for other parts of it - like devices on third party motherboards..

    windows is a very powerful os in that it supports so much hardware -- not peripherals, but hardware; as in motherboards video cards, etc. this is why os'es like redhat take so much time to make compatible (though are thriving at this moment) - because they dont actually have the code for hardware, as microsoft does.

    now to rumors - i think that it is more than improbable that apple will make their os compatible with other third party hardware. this would take a lot of effort for them to do, as it has already taken years for os'es like redhat to come about -- with the help of thousands of open source programmers -- as opposed to apple being such a relatively small work force... it would take them a long while to put together such a project.. though they can use the already available open source drivers (.. similarly as they have used CUPS in jaguar -- an open source printing protocol) it would take them a significantly shorter amount of time.. but would still be a very large task.

    i think that it is much more probable, however, for apple to adopt the x86 architecure, but only allow for the os to run on their machines, as this is closer to a simple os re-compile than the latter.

    though i have no opinion about whether apple will adopt the x86 architecture, i think that if they decide to adopt it, it could be soon, as they did in fact make the anouncement that jaguar would only run on systems not allowing os 9 (ie systems that have to be able to support ppc)..

    hopefully this wasnt too disorganized.. it is late after all.. :D ..
  3. alex_ant macrumors 68020


    Feb 5, 2002
    All up in your bidness
    OS X probably already is running on x86, more-or-less fully-featured, with support for some x86 hardware, deep in the basement of Apple Labs or whatever it's called. Probably with all the iApps as well. The actual technical aspect of switching to x86 would not be great (provided one is comfortable abandoning Classic), since OS X was built to be multiplatform.

    Assuming all it takes is a recompile, and porting is a breeze for developers, the bigger problem is the confusion this would create with regards to software distribution. OS X does have the .pkg to handle this, but it's anyone's guess how many developers would take advantage of it. If they don't, it becomes like Linux where you have to decide whether you want to download this version for this hardware or that older version for that hardware because nobody has compiled a newer version of it yet.

    This, of course, ignores everything else that makes the switch-to-x86 argument a joke. But you specifically said you weren't asking for any of that, so...
  4. mac15 macrumors 68040

    Dec 29, 2001
    Its so easy to convert it, its easy for apple, I heard it would take a month, which is good for apple, cause it would be a waste if it took any longer, ;)
  5. Nipsy macrumors 65816


    Jan 19, 2002
    Ummm...remember AltiVec?

    SSE != AltiVec, so all programs which take advantage of AltiVec would need MAJOR reworking (including the OS itself).

    How 'bout instruction sets? While a recompile can do wonders with binaries, source sometimes includes architecture specific enhancements...all of this would need to be rewritten.

    Yes, I wholly beleive that Apple maintains a parity build of OSX on x86. It may run Final Cut Pro (as Apple could make some dough selling FCP for Wintel), but what about Photoshop? What about any third party program? The Mac version won't work on OSX for x86, the Windows version won't work on OSX for x86.

    Additionally, since you don't have the source for any of your commercial programs, you couldn't attempt to recompile them, you'd be reliant on the developer (who has likely just spent along time porting into Cocoa/Carbon). So wiat for new versions for all your proggies (again). And expect them to require massive debugging, as x86 hooks and calls are grafted under an Aqua UI....ughhh.

    It is just unreal to see the desire people have for this rumor to come true...x86 is faster at the moment, true, but a poor architecture from the get-go.

    Notice that even though the Power4 is a killer chip, MS abandoned NT for PPC? Multiple architectures make everything harder for eveyone, and with the 970 on the horizon, you won't be seeing PPC go away.

    Here's one which is a real stretch, but far more likely than AMD replacing PPC...bringing back the emulator internally...wooing switchers with "and there's a real old fashioned windows machine in there too..."

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