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Apple updates Darwin, asks for x86 work

Kickstarting Intel port

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Apple has quietly updated its open source operating system foundation, Darwin, to version 1.2.1, and it appears to come with a plea for more work on the x86 side of things.

Darwin itself is the BSD-based core for MacOS X. The software can be downloaded free - there's a 135MB installer disk image available on Apple's Darwin Web site - and will run on any MacOS X Public Beta-compatible machine, which is pretty much all modern G3 and G4 Macs, with the exception of one or two PowerBook models.

Alongside the update, Apple has posted a Darwin 'to do' list, top of which is support for older Mac models. Then there's this:

"The Intel support in Darwin is largely dormant and hasn't been exercised much since Rhapsody. Getting Darwin installation working on Intel is the first problem. Getting it running is second. We have some experience with this; we'll need to dig up some old tools at Apple to help this get rolling."

A hint at Apple's plan to develop a full MacOS X on Intel, we wonder? As we noted in a recent article summarising rumours that the company is doing just that, building a version of the next-generation Mac operating system that runs on x86 hardware makes a lot of sense for Apple, even if it has no intention of shipping it commercially.

Central to that is getting Darwin to run on x86 - it already compiles, just about. It can then form the basis for porting over the code unique to MacOS X, such as the Aqua UI and the Quartz PDF-based 2D graphics engine. More importantly, it would form a working system for driver writers.

Whatever Apple is up to, all this suggests it wants to get the x86 development moving.

We also note that the wish list says: "It will also be useful to get the X server running as a (rootless) client of Quartz, so that X apps can run on a Mac OS X system," part of the entry on getting Xfree86 ported over, though this is more about getting X working on PowerPC-based machines.

Running Darwin requires 64MB (though it will install in 32MB) and a dual-partitioned hard drive totalling at least 1GB. Apple also notes that AirPort and FireWire are as yet unsupported. ®

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