Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Is Maplesoft MacTel support what it seems?

I usually try to add personal experience and opinion to news, but last week with the Maple MacTel announcement, I reported it from the press release, like most of the Mac media, without question.

But queries on the Maple user forum hint at something more to the story. Two users have pointed out that while the Maple interface layer is claiming to be a Universal Binary, the Maple computational engine is reporting itself as a PowerPC application, and therefore running under emulation. Now since the computational engine is the purpose of the product, this rather undermines the claim of a native port of the product.

Furthermore, since the majority of Maple interface is written in Java and therefore is designed to run on the virtual platform of the JRE (likely slower than native PowerPC code running on Rosetta emulation), it is not clear that the native code can be doing anything very significant.

Perhaps this will turn out to be a misunderstanding or a bug is causing Maple to mis-report itself. But a thin layer of native code hiding an unported application would not endear Maplesoft to the Mac enthusiast community.

[[Update 15-Jun-6]]
So the issue turns out to be carelessness rather than a wholescale absense of Mactel code. Also, I had not noticed that the press release had carefully avoided the use of the word "Universal", as the Maplesoft statement that follows explains. Goes to show even press releases are sometimes worth deeper analysis!



"Hi there,

I'm a developer and a resident Mac expert at Maplesoft. I'd like to clarify some of the confusion about the state of the Intel version. The summary is, everything that counts in the kernel and GUI is universal. We have a two remaining vestiges of PowerPC code, but they should not impact performance in any significant way.

Here's a detailed explanation of what's going on.

1. A PowerPC process (mfsd) shows up when you start Maple. This process is a third-party license manager daemon and is not involved in Maple computations in any way. It won't affect the performance of computations done by the Maple kernel (mserver), which is a universal binary.

2. Maple 10.app shows up as "PowerPC" when you do a Get Info from the Finder. This is because Maple is packaged as a Java app, and such packages contain a launcher application stub (JavaApplicationStub). This is a tiny executable that launches Java and then quits. Unfortunately, we didn't update this stub (oops) with the rest of the update, so we're still using the PowerPC-only version. We'll address this in a future version, but in the meantime rest assured that the worksheet uses the Intel JVM and takes full advantage of Apple's latest and greatest Java technology for the Intel platform. (Read: it's a LOT faster than before!)

Because of this remaining PowerPC-only code, you may have noticed that we can't technically use Apple's "Universal" moniker for our product.

I'd be happy to answer any other questions you may have about Maple, whether on the Mac, or in general.

Yu-Hong Wang
Senior developer, Maplesoft"

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I'm a developer and a resident Mac expert at Maplesoft. I'd like to clarify some of the confusion about the state of the Intel version. The summary is, everything that counts in the kernel and GUI is universal. We have a two remaining vestiges of PowerPC code, but they should not impact performance in any significant way.

Here's a detailed explanation of what's going on.

1. A PowerPC process (mfsd) shows up when you start Maple. This process is a third-party license manager daemon and is not involved in Maple computations in any way. It won't affect the performance of computations done by the Maple kernel (mserver), which is a universal binary.

2. Maple 10.app shows up as "PowerPC" when you do a Get Info from the Finder. This is because Maple is packaged as a Java app, and such packages contain a launcher application stub (JavaApplicationStub). This is a tiny executable that launches Java and then quits. Unfortunately, we didn't update this stub (oops) with the rest of the update, so we're still using the PowerPC-only version. We'll address this in a future version, but in the meantime rest assured that the worksheet uses the Intel JVM and takes full advantage of Apple's latest and greatest Java technology for the Intel platform. (Read: it's a LOT faster than before!)

Because of this remaining PowerPC-only code, you may have noticed that we can't technically use Apple's "Universal" moniker for our product.

I'd be happy to answer any other questions you may have about Maple, whether on the Mac, or in general.

Yu-Hong Wang
Senior developer, Maplesoft

Anonymous said...

PLEASE NOTE that there is no download link directly to the Intel Mac installer. You must email support@maplesoft.com with your email address and purchase code to get a download link. This also means that the link from VersionTracker is not the Intel version, so if you downloaded from there, please email us for the actual update.

Yu-Hong

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