Thursday, June 3, 1999
OS Xing: Profiling Andrew Stone
By Raven Zachary
Andrew Stone, founder of Mac OS X developer Stone Design Corp., writes code and conducts business inside an adobe tower that he built on a 3-acre "cyberranch" in Albuquerque, N.M.
Stone Design is owned and operated by just three people -- two developers and a business manager -- and its mission statement is simple: "To design, develop and deploy the next generation of productivity applications using object technology, and still have fun."
For Stone, software development came after a life in architecture and construction. He graduated from the University of New Mexico in 1977 with an architecture degree, and for 10 years he was a general contractor in solar adobe construction. In 1980 Stone began software development on a TRS80 computer, and in 1985 he moved to a Macintosh, where he did HyperCard development.
In the late 1980s Stone started developing software for the NeXT operating system, and in 1989 he released his first commercial application, TextArt -- one of the first commercial NeXT applications. He dropped out of UNM's masters program in computer science after TextArt started selling well -- he shows visitors a mouse pad created by the National Security Agency using his TextArt application, which is wonderful irony considering his counterculture leanings.
By 1990 TextArt had evolved into Create, a full illustration package that is still being developed today. His next product, DataPhile, was released in April 1991.
A database application, DataPhile was used by high-profile clients such as Steve Jobs' NeXT Software Inc. and even the CIA (which wanted special features added to the database that Stone couldn't bring himself to implement). During this period Stone also produced several raves in San Francisco, putting his profits to "good use,"he says. In late 1995, he moved from NeXTstep to OpenStep, porting Create to OpenStep. He then shipped Create for Windows 95 and NT, OpenStep for MACH, and OpenStep for Solaris.
In December 1996 Stone heard rumors of the NeXT acquisition by Apple days before the announcement, but he was skeptical. When the announcement came he was overjoyed. Asked by a friend what the acquisition meant to him, he responded, "I guess I got a raise." With the market segments of NeXT and Apple combined, Stone's potential user base grew exponentially.
Earlier this year Stone shipped a new version of Create -- the first application for Apple's Rhapsody OS and now for Mac OS X Server.
Presently Stone is focused on a set of Web content development tools for Mac OS X that include Create; GIFfun, an animated GIF utility; Slice and Dice, an image map and navigation bar creator; WebColors, a tool for selecting proper colors for cross-platform display; and Pack Up and Go, a compression utility. Stone is also co-developer of the Licenser Kit, license management objects for developers that allow for easy Internet distribution and remote registration of products.
Around the ranch
Stone's background in architecture and construction is apparent during a walk around his compound, where he single-handedly designed and built nearly all the buildings -- his home, the tower, guest quarters and several sheds. He lives there with his wife and three children and raises llamas and chickens.
The buildings are filled with computers -- Macs, NeXT machines, PCs and Sun workstations. His workshop is also his "NeXT museum," housing one of every NeXT model ever released. Stone tells how he spent $12,000 for his first NeXT machine, with the remaining models coming from NeXT in exchange for DataPhile licenses.
His development machine is a 400-MHz blue Power Mac G3 with a dual boot of Mac OS X Server and Mac OS X DP1. There's no place on his machines for Mac OS 8.x besides the Blue Box. In fact, all of his Mac hardware is running Mac OS X Server, including the machines for his children.
Talking about Cocoa development, Stone says he is thankful the technology has "seen the light of day" for future Apple OS releases. This time last year Apple was focusing so heavily on Carbon development that Yellow Box development was rarely mentioned. This year Apple made it clear that Cocoa (previously known as Yellow Box and Objective-C) has a strong future. All the work he has done for the past 10 years -- developing for NeXTstep, OpenStep, Rhapsody and now Mac OS X -- has not been a waste.
"OpenStep developers will be very valuable once the world wakes up and sees the importance that Cocoa has in Apple's strategy," he says. "For those who have kept the faith, it will pay off."
Although Stone sees the importance of Carbon in assisting Mac developers to quickly port their applications to Mac OS X, he's happy he isn't dependent on the Carbon Libraries. His advice to all new programmers is to jump into Cocoa immediately. To Mac programmers he suggests porting to Carbon and immediately beginning the migration path to Cocoa. "Do these guys want to be stuck with legacy code forever? Now is the perfect time to begin a rewrite," he maintains. "If porting to Carbon is as easy as Apple claims, then these developers will have several months to begin working on Cocoa versions of their apps before Mac OS X is even released."
Stone Design's flagship product is Create, an illustration and HTML authoring tool with some amazing features not available in competing applications, including support for infinite undo -- accomplished by storing a record of all operations that were run on a specific file.
Asked about future competition from products such as Adobe Illustrator and Home Page, he responds, "I don't need 90 percent of the market share to be profitable. I am surviving on my development, and that's enough."
One of the announcements at the recent Apple Worldwide Developers Conference was that Apple was moving from Display PostScript to its new Quartz windowing system and imaging model.
Create relied heavily on Display PostScript. In the migration from Display PostScript to Quartz, Stone says, he could have made changes to only about 100 lines of code. Instead he decided to do a full-code rewrite, resulting in more than 500,000 lines of code being trimmed out, which took 60 days. This new version of Create has every feature from the previous release, while leaving all the old code behind. The result is a leaner, faster, more portable application that will be easier for Stone to update in the future. It was developed for support of either Display PostScript in Mac OS X Server or the forthcoming Quartz system for Mac OS X and future releases of Mac OS X Server. The same code base can be compiled to run on either system with no changes.
For this new version, Create X, previous Create documents will be converted automatically using a transparent upgrader application. This will allow Stone to remove the legacy code from his new version and place it into an upgrade utility. Create X will use an entirely new file format that is forward- and backward-compatible due to its XML-type construction using property lists. With Create X you will also be able to save your files in PDF format, taking advantage of Apple's new Quartz model based on PDF. With this added feature Create is an ideal program not only for image creation and HTML design but also for basic layout functions such as product brochures and resumes.
In the move from Create 5.1 to Create X, Stone Design will offer a low-cost upgrade for Create 5 owners. Create X will not be released until Mac OS X ships early next year; until then Stone will continue to evolve Create and prepare for its commercial release.
For a limited time Stone Design has lowered the price of Create from $695 to $199. For students Create is only $99. The entire suite -- including Create, GIFfun, Slice and Dice, Pack Up and Go, and WebColors -- is available for $299 instead of $864 and available to students for $149.
OS Xing is a weekly column exploring the potential of Mac OS X Server as a desktop OS. Contributing Editor Raven Zachary lives in Austin, Texas, works for an Internet portal and is a former editor of The Rhapsody Report. He welcomes your feedback at email@example.com.
Copyright 1999 Raven Zachary/Mac Publishing LLC.
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