[OS X TeX] TeX and Apple's possible transition to RISC

Richard Koch koch at uoregon.edu
Thu Apr 5 20:40:07 CEST 2018


> On Apr 5, 2018, at 10:54 AM, Richard Seguin <riseguin at earthlink.net> wrote:
> There are rumors that Apple may be transitioning from Intel to its own RISC processors beginning as early as 2020. There are speculations that Apple will also attempt to merge MacOS with or into iOS, and some people are even applauding this last possibility. Would either of these pose potential problems for TeX software and the front end software that we use with TeX? I know that iOS is much more locked down than the current MacOS, and, for example, the TeXShop install seems to put something into the root drive since it always asks me for my password. I usually use BBEdit and Skim together with some “TeX integration scripts” that could conceivably be forbidden in an iOS version. It seems recently that Apple has no qualms about giving developers and users big headaches in advancing its vision.
> Richard Séguin

I hope to see a lot of comments. My comments translate to this: I'm not scared.

( Aside: TeXShop doesn't require root access and is delivered directly rather than in an install package. MacTeX, which is essentially TeX Live, requires root access because it installs in /usr/local/texlive. However, TeX Live can also be installed using a script available through TUG, and the script can install anywhere, including a user's home directory.) 

There are two rumors. One is a merger of macOS and iOS. The current rumor is that macOS would get the ability to run some iOS applications. This might happen; it would be interesting and  I don't think it would be threatening.

Apple has always denied the more severe version of this rumor, that Mac applications would be denied access to Unix, would be required to run in their own sandbox, and could only be available through the App Store.That would be the end of open source on Macs, but I don't worry about it because I don't think it will ever happen, certainly not in the next five to ten years.

The second independent rumor is that Apple might switch from Intel processors to RISC. This would be very interesting. For comfort, consider what happened in 2005, when Apple made a similar switch from PowerPC to Intel. Apple announced this switch at WWDC in 2005. It is interesting to watch Job's keynote address, available on the Web. At the end of the keynote, Jobs told developers that they could rent an Intel machine to recompile and test their software for $1000. The machine would have to be returned to Apple after one and a half years.

These machines were delivered one week after WWDC was over. OS X ran fine on them. For programs written in Cocoa, Apple estimated that it would take one week to recompile for Intel. TeXShop was written in Cocoa, so I tried. It ran immediately after a recompile. No code changes required.

Apple estimated that Carbon programs written using XCode would take a month to recompile. At the time, more Carbon programs were written with Metroworks, and these would first have to be converted to XCode. There are essentially no Carbon programs remaining because Carbon did not make the transition from 32 bits to 64 bits. So if anything, recompiling should be easier.

By 2005, I was building TeX Live, so I recompiled that on Intel. No problems at all. I guess a switch to RISC might be slightly harder, but not by much.

And those $1000 machines that had to be returned? Apple started selling Intel machines six months later, in January of 2005. They sent an offer to developers who had rented an Intel machine. Here was the offer: "we'll send you an Intel i-iMac for free, with free shipping. You then have a week to transfer your work from the rented machine to the new one. After that, call the shipping company and we'll pay for shipping the rented machine back to us."

Dick Koch
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