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Fat Binary Comments

Many people wrote in to comment on my article about fat binaries in TidBITS-240, in the process raising a few issues that I hadn’t previously considered.

Peter Lewis <[email protected]> notes:

The Umich archive people said they don’t want two different versions at <>, so a fat binary is pretty much the only choice. It’s a slight pain since it makes downloading take longer (and cost more), but I see their point.

Chris Meyer <[email protected]> writes:

We have a pair of Quadra 950s with Apple Power Mac upgrade cards in them and often switch between PowerPC and 68040 modes, depending on what we want to do and whether or not we have native tools.

We dislike needing two versions of each program for the two modes our Quadras can run in. Sometimes double-clicking on a document opens the wrong version (which means you either run very slow, or you crash). Some plug-ins even come in two versions, requiring two different plug-in folders. And installers are often stupid in their attempt to be smart – we want both versions installed, not the one that matches the current CPU mode. In the latest version of Elastic Reality, which uses the VICE installer, I went to custom and checked both versions – and it still only installed the 040 versions. Sigh.

Andrew Zmolek <[email protected]> echoes Chris’s comments:

Don’t forget that some of us have PowerPC upgrade cards and want to have fat binaries of all our favorite programs. If I can get a fat binary, then I know I’m always running as fast as I can for either processor.

I have a big beef with companies like Claris and WordPerfect that refuse to provide fat binaries. This forces me to install both versions and I have to use drag & drop to ensure that I open my files with the correct version.

WordPerfect 3.0 can be "fattened" by pasting the code resources from the 68K version into the PowerPC version, but ClarisWorks can’t. It has different resources between the two versions, so this trick won’t work. Moreover, ClarisWorks complains that it’s been modified. Speaking with the Claris folks made it clear to me that they care nothing about making a fat binary version, even though that’s what they promised when I ordered the PowerPC-native upgrade several months ago.

There are other legitimate reasons to want fat binaries. Applications that reside on fileservers are easier to use and maintain if they’re fat. Shareware and freeware can be passed on to other users without regard to the type of Mac they’ll be run on.

Mike Tippets <[email protected]> writes:

In preparing our native version of WordPerfect 3.0, which shipped on 14-Mar-94, we heavily researched the fat binary option. We determined as you concluded in your article that a "smart installer" was the better solution. However, as you mentioned at the end of the article, it is also a nice option to have a fat binary choice. Our large site customers have since requested that we give them a fat binary option in the installer. The reason for this request is that many times they want to install one copy of the application on a server and let Power Macs and 68K Macs access the same location for their application. Having the fat binary option gives them this choice. We are adding a fat binary option in the custom part of our installer for WordPerfect 3.1 in response to this request.

George Suttle <[email protected]> adds:

The fat binary issues is becoming problematic for me. I took my old Classic II into my office when I got my new Power Mac 7100. Naturally I want programs optimized for the Power Mac, but programs like PageMaker 5.0 that only include PowerPC code prevent me from using them at work. Some license agreements permit installation on home/office machines so long as there isn’t simultaneous use, but that’s undermined by Aldus’s practice of dual releases. On the other hand, I don’t want to spare room on my crammed-up Classic II drive for redundant code. So I would come down on the side of smart installers.

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