Q&A with Rentzsch

The Macalope felt Jonathan “Wolf” Rentzsch’s explanation of why he was canceling the C4 conference left some unanswered questions, so he took them to the man himself.

MACALOPE: As the guy behind ClickToFlash (thank you for that, by the way), you don’t seem to have any real love of Adobe’s great gift to the Internet (which they made purely out of the goodness of their hearts, they’ll have you know). So the Macalope is assuming this is less about Flash and more about the free market principles violated by Section 3.3.1. Is that a fair statement? Anything you’d like to add to that?

RENTZSCH: It isn’t about flash (you’ve already noticed ClickToFlash) or free market principles (though I believe Apple will eventually need to tear down the walls on their garden under competitive pressure), it’s about advancing software engineering.

Apple has a bad track record of advancing software engineering. Objective-C 2.0 catches them up to 1995. 3.3.1 means we’ll be forever behind the curve.

MacRuby is the most exciting thing in a decade to come to Apple programmers. Politically iPhone devs can’t use it thanks to 3.3.1 (whether it’s ready for iPhone technically is another discussion).

MACALOPE: The majority of developers are probably not incensed by Section 3.3.1 because they never planned to use a cross-platform IDE anyway and have experienced years of abuse at the hands of Flash. So why should they care?

RENTZSCH: It’s not about cross-platform. It’s about writing Mac and iPhone software *better*. Less code. Less crashes. Faster-than-C runtime speed. Much greater dev speed.

Look, code is UI to programmers. Apple devs have been stuck on Windows 3.11. 3.3.1 means things won’t be getting better.

MACALOPE: It doesn’t seem to the Macalope like anything’s going to change until developers start walking. Any plans on getting out of the business of developing on Apple’s platforms or focusing on other platforms?

RENTZSCH: I’ve always done both Mac and Web programming. The brain damage in both communities tends to counteract the other. I’m focusing more on the web now, specifically Cappuccino and node.js. It’s feels great. Haven’t felt this good in years.

MACALOPE: The Macalope hasn’t followed your blog or Twitter closely but he did go back over them and didn’t see a huge amount of commentary on 3.3.1. Have you opined on it elsewhere? If not, doesn’t it seem odd to expect outrage from the rest of the development community when you yourself haven’t been noticeably vocal about it until now?

RENTZSCH: I usually yell about Apple stuff.

3.3.1 broke my spirit to the extent I gave up.


The Macalope thanks Wolf for his responses. Also, he’s got a brief follow-up posted to his blog now which clarifies his position further.

Trackbacks Comments
  • Sigivald:

    “MacRuby is the most exciting thing in a decade to come to Apple programmers”.


    Since 2000, that’s the most exciting thing?

    (And “it’s about pervasive multicore and distributed computing”?

    Not on a god-damned iPhone it isn’t.)

  • rd:

    Section 3.3.1 refers to no API layer between CocoaTouch (UI).

    Why would Rentzsch be crying about using another layer
    to write a controller, CoreData, IB. obj-c is the only sensible
    way to interface with the AppKit. Even Macruby goes thru
    a mapping layer, how is that an advancement.

    He is basically pissed that Apple took WebObjects away from
    him. He is not doing any Cocoa programming.
    ClickToFlash is a WebKit plug-in, he did write in obj-c right.

  • Wiseguy:

    Ultimately, “it’s about better software,” he says. Absolutely right! But “better” is comparative, relative. “Better” to me may not be “better” to you. “Better” to a developer might mean easier/quicker to make, while “better” to an end user is a more natural function and feel — the user experience.

    Just as this guy is striving to make better software, Apple is striving to distribute better software, which Apple judges largely by user experience. They’re playing the odds here. Perhaps statistically more junk apps are created to every Apple-worthy app created using these now-prohibited tools, as compared with the junk-to-jewel ratio of native apps. Certainly, §3.3.1 is preventing some great apps, but Apple is betting that they’re also preventing proportionally more junk apps. This is their gamble.

    Apple does not seek to conquer the entire PC market; it seeks to conquer only the top, say, 10% of the market. These are the odds they play. Similarly, Apple does not seek to have all apps on the iPhone; it seeks to have only the best, say, 10% of apps on the iPhone. On these grounds, it’s perfectly reasonable for them to reject your app simply because it doesn’t feel “good enough.”

    They don’t do this just because they think they’re better than sliced bread. They do this because they believe it’s what the consumer wants — only the best. Based on how consumers respond with their wallets, Apple currently holds a pretty good case that its assumption is correct.

  • Nik:

    Well as a fellow programmer I have to say he’s right about Objective C 2.0. It’s getting better, similar to XCode which is getting better – but these tools are still 10 years behind Java/Eclipse or .Net/VisualStudio.

    The iPhone OS might be years ahead – the UI libraries certainly are better than anything in Java, by orders of magnitude. But the tools are from the stone ages. And section 3.3.1 guarantees that this remains so for a time to come.

    I’ve actually at one point applied for a job at Apple solely to fix their shitty dev tools, to drag them into the new century. I guess that didn’t go over to well, never heard from them.

    MacRuby – well I don’t know. Ruby is beautiful but I wish it had static typing so it could be used for large scale development.

    • pedant:

      Quote: “The iPhone OS might be years ahead – the UI libraries certainly are better than anything in Java, by orders of magnitude. But the tools are from the stone ages.”

      The thing is, Apple seem to focus on producing real consumer apps first, and developer software second. All the other platforms seem to be excited because their developer software is cool, and seem to forget to actually produce something the consumer wants.

      Fancy IDEs mean squat to Joe the Plumber.

  • ArtDecoDalek:

    Wait, this is the clarified version? I’m glad I didn’t read the unclear one, because none of this makes any sense whatsoever.

  • Simon:

    Since the first line I read on the Contact Us page of the MacRuby site was:

    “MacRuby is a free software project by Apple Inc.”

    I’d guess if any alternative language has a chance of appearing on the iPhone it’s MacRuby. I doubt 3.3.1 is Apple’s last word on the subject. Maybe we just need a little patience.

    Personally, being a C kind of guy, I think the most exiting thing to happen to Apple programmers in a long while is llvm/clang. Now that Xcode can shed its dependency on the boat anchor that is gcc we might see some real advances – Build and Analyze is already pretty cool.

  • J.M. Heinrichs:

    “Apple devs have been stuck on Windows 3.11.”
    Is he old enough to understand the context of this statement?


  • James Katt:

    This is all about sour grapes.

    Apple made the decision that only the best software gets to be on the iPhone.

    Developers who want to be on the iPhone will have to live with that decision.

    Cross platform software NEVER is about creating the best software. It is about programming for the least common denominator. Period. That is what Apple seeks to ban. And I applaud their guts to do so.

    • Cross platform software NEVER is about creating the best software. It is about programming for the least common denominator. Period. That is what Apple seeks to ban. And I applaud their guts to do so.

      Bingo! +10.

  • Rob:

    I think anyone who’s used Xcode compared with other IDEs like Eclipse/Visual Studio would agree that Xcode is clearly behind the times.

  • “Even Macruby goes thru a mapping layer, how is that an advancement.” Software is built on top of a series of layers, otherwise we’d all be programming in assembler.

    “Cross platform software NEVER is about creating the best software.” Rentzsch’s gripes are not about cross-platform, read again. In fact, he talks about MacRuby. How is that cross-platform??

    “He is basically pissed that Apple took WebObjects away from
    him.” Why is he talking about Cappucino and node.js, then? And then, WebObjects is server-side, anyway, who would want to use it on an iPhone??

    “Wait, this is the clarified version? I’m glad I didn’t read the unclear one, because none of this makes any sense whatsoever.” OK, maybe you’ve got a point 😉

  • Mark Hernandez:

    Yeah, I was hoping for clarification, too. I’ve read the comment sections of at least 5 other blogs that reported this story and STILL don’t know any more. Rentzsch clearly doesn’t really want to talk about it. How can anyone supposedly so passionate about languages and developer tools avoid the opportunity to spew about what he strongly believes in? Again, it seems there’s something else going on here.

    As a iPhone developer I would love to be enlightened on specifically what’s not so great about the developer tools and how they could be improved. But I can’t find out anything.

    And now for something completely different but very releated…

    What if what’s really needed is not so much better developer tools, but better developer information management? I could make the case that a developer could go 10 times faster if s/he were able to have a much better grip on the complexity of the environment and avoid problems and impediments to progress to in the first place, and to work in a more leveraged fashion along with the community. Better development tools might make a 5% improvement, but better information management and communication might make a 200% improvement.

    Furthermore, it seems to fall on deaf ears that this is the 21st century and we all have multiple points of internet access all around us — in our pocket, on a tablet and on multiple screens. Why, then, is it then so sad when C4 is cancelled and no longer is it possible for a tiny TINY fraction of the developer community (a privileged few) to attend a get-together to try to advance the state of the art? Clearly it’s no longer an efficient approach. It’s so obvious that I think it’s totally missed.

    The mobile marketplace is a new can of worms for Apple AND developers in so many ways. Perhaps what we need instead is to improve things in big ways in other long-ignored areas to advance our progress to a significant degree.

    As the co-administrator of iPhoneDevForums.com I can tell you that the online forum, for instance, is one of the most antiquated and useless things around, and StackOverflow.com is not much better either at helping developers solve problems with their complex systems so they can move forward quickly. Most problems go unsolved because “it could be anything” since someone must share a lot more information before someone can actually help them. And if there are problems with a particular API, shouldn’t that changing information be kept with the API documentation itself (by Apple) and not strewn across the internet in undated posts?

    Also, is it the case that the iPhone OS developer community is not so much a team of engineers at a corporation and instead more of a network of loosely coupled developers working more solo? Is that something to be considered?

    Rentzsch doesn’t want to talk about his issues, but look at ME go! If he had something to really get across shouldn’t he be talking like this?

    So here are just two things that would advance the state of the art — better information management and better utilization of the network we’re already ALL connected to many times over.

    Do we really need better development tools? Can developers really say that the languages and tools are the big impediments to their progress?

    I don’t have the answers, but I’m not stuck in the past either, and I think we need to forget about C4, Rentzsch, and leave all that behind and think different!

    Mark Hernandez
    Information Workshop

    • Mark Hernandez:

      Sorry about the spelling/grammar errors. Don’t get me started! My fingers were flyin’. ha ha!

Leave a Comment