Faster bit-mapping added to 3.0

by Simson L. Garfinkel

Users will be getting both more and less than they expected when NeXTSTEP 3.0 ships this month.

Faster displays

NeXTSTEP 3.0 should boast dramatically improved performance for bit-map-intensive applications like X servers, photo-retouching programs, and SoftPC, thanks to the efforts of Terrance Donahue, a programmer with NeXT's window system group.

The improvements come after a recent NeXT Customer Advisory Board meeting identified "faster X performance" as a pressing need, said Chris MacAskill, NeXT's director of developer relations.

NeXT previously hadn't seen ways to increase the speed of NXImageBitmap, the NeXTSTEP Application Kit object that implements screen-image display.

"It turned out that most of our assumptions were false once [Donahue] got to go around in there and dig," said MacAskill, adding that Donahue's speedups apply only to NeXTstation Color machines."We think that a factor of 2 improvement, and possibly a factor of 3," is likely in most cases.

Although the new features were not part of NeXTSTEP 3.0's first or second prereleases, developers of bit-map-intensive applications were given a special release that included a new Application Kit and WindowServer program.

GNU compiler source nixed

NeXT will not be providing the source code to its GNU compilers on the NeXTSTEP 3.0 CD-ROM, as many enthuasists had hoped, but will instead sell the software as a separate product and make the source code publicly available over the Internet, said Kevin Wells, NeXT's manager of software product marketing.

"It may sound silly, given that we have plenty of space and it basically doesn't cost us anything to do it, but . . . putting GNU source on the Release 3 CD-ROM really isn't consistent with what we want the product to be," said Wells.

NeXT's C compiler and debugger are based on GNU software, written by the Free Software Foundation. Under terms of the license, NeXT must provide the source code to customers who request it and can charge only a nominal fee for duplicating the floppy disks.

Only a small but very vocal minority of NeXT's customers want the source code, said Wells. Some developers, though, are disappointed. "There are legitimate reasons to have access to compiler source code," said Robert E. Brown, a senior software developer at Quorum Software Systems, which is developing a Mac emulator. Brown used a previous version of the compiler's source code to make it compatible with Think C, a popular Mac compiler.