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Kevin Walzer, software developer.



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Mon, 19 Nov 2007

Carbon frustration

Things have been pretty quiet here lately: I still haven't updated to Leopard, but will do so in the near future. I will be making new Leopard-compatible releases of my software at that time. These will focus on bug fixes rather than substantial new features.

Though I haven't released anything for several weeks, I have been doing a lot of coding, and thinking, about the direction of my programs. Part of this process has been learning the C programming language. Learning C has gone smoothly enough, at least to the point where I can read C code and understand what's going on, more or less. That's a necessary precursor to being able to do productive work in a programming language.

Unfortunately, the next step of my roadmap--learning Apple's Carbon frameworks to help enhance the toolkit I use for my programs, Tk--has gone unexpectedly awry. Simply put, there are no usable, modern resources to learn Carbon. The few available books on Carbon programming are generally obsolete, even though they were published to coincide with the release of Mac OS X. Apple has made huge updates to the Carbon frameworks since OS X was released, but no "introduction to Carbon" documents--whether books or provided directly by Apple--reflect these changes. As a result, if you are a newcomer to Carbon and need to rely on a textbook to learn the basics, you will learn only obsolete things, which you will then have to unlearn in order to adapt to the modern approaches.

Whether by design or happenstance, aspiring Carbon developers are being starved of resources they need to learn the frameworks. This, as much as Apple's deliberate decision to make Carbon a second-class citizen for Mac development, helps to ensure that Carbon eventually will wither away.

As a result, helping out with enhancing Tk is starting to look less and less like a viable option. Getting Tk to do what I want--display Mac icons natively, fully supporting drag-and-drop--will require climbing a learning curve nearly vertical in its difficulty. I'm not a C programmer by trade, nor am I really interested in becoming one. I gravitated to Tcl/Tk and Python/Tk precisely because I thought they wouldn't require me to be a C programmer. The amount of work required to become a Carbon programmer in order to enhance Tk is vastly increased by the paucity of resources for learning modern Carbon programming, and makes the entire enterprise simply daunting to me.

So what does this mean for the future of my programs? Well, they definitely have a future. The question is what direction I take them.

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