According to Hoyle...
Basic Update 2008: Follow-up
by Jonathan Hoyle
Due to the large feedback response I received from last month's column
Basic Update 2008,
we continue our discussion on Basic development environments.
The majority of email responses I received from last
month's article was with regard to the price of REALbasic 2008's Standard Edition. In it, I stated that REAL
Software announced its price increase, doubling from $100 to $200. Although
this announcement did happen, the price increase did not. Thankfully, REAL
Software was talked down from the ledge from this expensive jump, allowing REALbasic to remain an excellent buy for a very powerful
development environment. For $200, instead of only a single platform of REALbasic (as I incorrectly stated last month), you in fact
get all three: Mac & Windows for $100 each, and the Linux version is free!
Thanks again to all who sent me the corrected information.
Others felt that my brief review of REALbasic left the impression that I was not recommending this
product. Although I was being critical of the pricing (and the Professional
version does indeed remain far too high at an unrealistic $500), I find REALbasic to be the finest Basic development environment ever
produced for the Macintosh. It is both easy and powerful, a combination not
easily achieved. One feature I specifically enjoy is its ability to use C/C++
code as I outlined in a previous column - http://www.maccompanion.com/archives/November2006/Columns/AccordingtoHoyle.htm.
This is one of only two Mac Basic's I regularly use, and the only one I use on
a daily basis. This is the product is the standard for which all other Basic's
are measured, and rightfully so.
Another criticism I received from last month had to do
with the reference to my two year old review of REALbasic 2006- http://www.maccompanion.com/archives/january2006/Columns/AccordingtoHoyle.htm.
In that review, I mention the two biggest deficiencies were its lack of
universal binary support and its forced Microsoft-like all-in-one windowing.
Neither of these exist in REALbasic 2008, so it is high time for a full update in a future column; look for it.
The news of FutureBASIC going freeware as of the beginning of the year was perhaps the most
exciting news I had to offer in last month's column. Amongst the enthusiastic
responses I received to this news was an email from Brian Stevens, who heads up
the FBtoC project [
http://www.4toc.com/fb4/ ], which allows for creating Universal Binaries from
FB projects. Brian's email contained additional information that would be of
great interest to Macintosh Basic enthusiasts, so I provide his information
FBtoC is more
than a translator. It handles virtually everything about the compile process
- Translating to C
- Building the executable ( calls gcc transparently ) and package based on
user settings--- including the coveted universal binary option
- Option to allow automatic copying of resources or files into the package
- Automatically copies the info.plist into the package
- Allows inline C (or Objective C ) in the FB source code
- Foreign language localization built-in for FBtoC and ability to easily do the
same for the compiled user application
- Direct access to non-standard frameworks with simple "include"
three volunteer projects underway that might of of interest:
 A Wiki
page is under construction at: http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Futurebasic It is
more than a reference and offers narratives describing current topics like
the modern use of FSRefs compared to other deprecated methods. Again, it is
under construction, so many sections are incomplete or just place holders. It
is however, exciting to see this coming together. Professor Chris Wyatt and
some of his students have generously offered their time.
 The new
editor project (current editor is Rosetta only on Intel Macs) has finally
started to move. Currently, I'm doing a little coding on it in between my other
responsibilities. There is a lot of work here; even with newer tech like
MLTE/ATSUI, building a smart editor is slightly less than a piece of cake.
Bernie Wylde is writing the project manager piece (Bernie, myself, Robert
Purves and Michele Neri are the FBtoC team) and Robert some input too. Not
really much to say yet and I don't have any timeframes because I'm not sure
exactly how many features we plan to incorporate. My goal is to finish core
parsing code first.
 FB and
FBtoC work well with nib files created with Interface Builder. If using FBtoC,
all the nibs in the project file are automatically copied into the Resources
folder within the application bundle. Of course, this means FB programmers can
use Interface Builder (Carbon controls) to create all their windows, menus and
controls (i.e. buttons, checkboxes etc.). The programmer is not limited to nibs
and can create windows and controls programmatically (as has been the
traditional method in FB). It is possible to mix programmatic creation of
windows/ controls within the same program. I noticed some development systems
require either programmatic or nibs but don't have flexibility to use either or
both. FB can.
Last month I gave a very strong recommendation for KBasic as being a cost-effective alternative to REALbasic
Professional, with a price tag of 24.95
Euro (~$35 US) for all platforms. Although this is correct for open source
(specifically, GPL) development, it is not the true cost for those interested
in writing commercial, shareware, or even non-GPL freeware. The reason for this
is that KBasic uses the Qt framework for its GUI, and any applications
developed with it cannot be legally distributed without acquiring a Qt license itself. Fortunately, GPL open source
projects may acquire Qt licenses
at no charge. For anything else however, it can be rather frightfully
Regretfully, this is not made very clear on the KBasic web site, as many people were not even aware of this
limitation (nor had I). Sadly, many people excited by KBasic had, like myself,
downloaded it in good faith, unawares of the legal restrictions and licensing
So how expensive is this Qt licensing anyway? Considerable, but the exact charges is no longer
available on the Qt web site, as
Trolltech now handles pricing on an individual-by-individual basis. However,
last year when pricing was still publicly available- http://web.archive.org/web/20070817200247/http://trolltech.com/products/qt/licenses/pricing, Qt cost anywhere between $1780
(for the Console Edition on a single platform) to $6600 (for the Desktop
Edition on all three platforms). Note that these prices were per-developer, meaning that if you have say three programmers on your
team, you needed to multiply these numbers all by three.
Now that Trolltech
chooses not to publicize their current pricing structure, it is presumably no
cheaper. As this is absurdly too expensive for the typical Basic developer on
the Mac, I can recommend KBasic only for GPL-based development projects.
With the revelation of KBasic's outrageously expensive Qt licensing problem, I contacted Bernd Noetscher, to
see if a similar limitation will exist for Objective-Basic as well. Bernd assures me that there are no Qt licensing issues for Objective-Basic since it uses
no cross-platform frameworks at all, only native Cocoa API calls.
A recent update on the Objective-Basic web site is a change of the expected release from
2nd Quarter 2008 to "2rd/3th Quarter 2008". This release still stands
to be the potential for the next killer Basic development environment.
On the True BASIC forums , http://www.truebasic.com/messageboard/default.asp, debates continue
on whether or not TB fulfills the definition of a dead product. Long
time True BASIC user "Big
John" Arscott has posted his perspective that "whilst there
are users who are actively using the TB language system, that it must be
considered as alive". Such usage of
the term is entirely unrealistic, as there are always users of dead products.
Current owner Peter Nicholaidis never responded to my calls about the future of True BASIC, but Big John was able
to meet with him to discuss the matter.
Despite his attempt to put a positive
spin on it, the following statement Big John made is quite telling: "The
fact that the current owners are not very proactive or over enthusiastic at
promoting or marketing TB is a result of commercial pressures rather than a
direct policy to bury the language".
Apparently, these "commercial pressures" do not even warrant taking the time to update its
embarrassingly atrophied web site, including the special offer good "from
now until 12/31/2006". "Direct
policy" or not, it's clear that no one wants to spend any time or money
further developing this sinking ship.
Even amongst those who continue to cling to hope that True
BASIC made someday be updated, these true
believers already acknowledge that there will never be a Mac OS X release,
despite statements made in the negligently deceptive True BASIC F.A.Q. The TB user base continues to shrivel up as
both Mac & Windows users lose patience and choose a better product.
Coming Up Next Month: Emulators for Retro-Computers. What does that mean? Find out in 30!
To see a list of previous According to Hoyle columns,