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Two connotations of the above title come to mind. ROM liberation and ROM libraries. Both are apt, because ROMlib is a Unix library that can simulate the Macintosh ROMs, but which might liberate (perhaps not the best choice of words, I suppose) them from Apple. For those who aren’t up on any of the latest clone reports, this is an extremely interesting (and potentially litigious) product, because Macintosh source code can be re-compiled on a Unix machine. The ROMlib version of the program retains the complete look and feel (I hear legal knives being sharpened already) via X Windows. The advantages of doing this are the advantages inherent to Unix machines – protected virtual memory, Unix development tools, "true" multitasking, the Unix file system, and heavy-duty hardware. Of course the main advantage is that there are a huge number of useful, elegant Macintosh applications that can be useful and elegant on a Unix machine.

Needless to say, there are a few small problems. Compatibility with the Mac Toolbox calls only extends to volumes 1 through 4 of Inside Mac, though the company, Abacus Research & Development Incorporated (ARDI), is working on volume 5 and 6. Other stuff that isn’t supported includes the Printing Manager, Desk Manager, Device Manager, Disk Driver, Sound Driver, Serial Driver, AppleTalk, Disk Initialization and SCSI Manager. The package itself has been ported to a number of Unix boxes, but is only supported on the Sun/3s because of ARDI’s current size of four programmers, a lawyer, an accountant, and a secretary.

ARDI does expect to be sued by Apple because they are aiming to sell ROMs for Macintosh clones, but they feel that they are completely in the right. They think the issue boils down to whether or not Apple owns the look and feel of all Macintosh applications regardless of who developed the programs. It seems to us that a more dangerous possibility is that Apple can claim copyright on the specific names of the routines and thus prevent ARDI from using those names. Since ARDI has completely reverse-engineered those routines, they are safe on the source code copyright aspect, but not being able to use the same routine names would be a pain because it would force programmers to change all the routine names before compiling under ROMlib (though I suppose ARDI could just release an application to change all the routine names appropriately).

ROMlib costs $400 (Oh, a round number price!) for a single-user license and is currently being bundled with Executor, a non-product that can run a good number of Mac binaries on the Sun/3. ARDI wrote Executor in the last four or five months to test ROMlib. Now that they have released ROMlib, they are devoting more attention to Executor. They even posted a list of applications from the BCS and BMUG CD-ROMs that they have tested under Executor and a number of the programs ran relatively well. None of the major commercial programs that they tested (Word, Excel, Wingz, SuperPaint 2.0, HyperCard 1.2.2, or MacWrite) ran without a hitch, but all but Wingz often break whenever Apple does anything different in hardware or software.

Abacus Research and Development
1650 University Blvd.
Albuquerque, NM 87102
Phone: 505/766-9115
Fax: 505/247-1899

Information from:
Clifford T. Matthews — ARDI
ARDI propaganda
Walt Leipold — [email protected]
Adam C. Engst — TidBITS Editor

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