My Audigone: NetBuild

Updated: see bottom.


It’s taken me longer than I would like, but I have finally gotten around to releasing my Audigone as Open Source.

My foray into Audigone territory was not a solo one, nor was it even my idea.

In early 2003, my then-coworker Mac Murrett saw that Xcode had a problem. It took forever to compile large-scale C++ projects, even on the fastest Macintosh hardware.

Why not, he thought, replace the cc executable used by Xcode with our own pass-through utility, which would distribute the individual file to a network of machines for compilation?

Now, this is not a new idea. Windows has several commercial distributed-compilation products, and there is an open-source utility, distcc, as well. But our version would use Rendezvous to build and maintain its list of helper machines dynamically and would work seamlessly with Project Builder.

Oh, and we were going to sell it for $450 a seat.

Mac did the heavy lifting for our cc replacement, called nbcc, and the Rendezvous mechanism. He deserves the credit for getting the system up and running.

I did – well, I did other stuff. A PackageMaker-based installer with a lot of bash shell script custom logic (PackageMaker really sucks, by the way). A Preferences plug-in to allow users to turn compiling on and off. A good bit of the writing for the Web site, which my designer friend Mark Abrams half-jokingly said looked like it had been put together by a college student.

iTunes left panel, including Library, playlist, shared music tree, and more

But finally we were ready to go, under the company name “Distributed Experts”. We planned to hand out buttons made with the graphic you see above at MacHack 2003, and get our product listed in ADC News.

It was when we tried to arrange the latter that we realized something was up. At first, our ADC request seemed to be going fine. Then: nothing. We didn’t show up in the ADC newsletter, we didn’t hear from anyone. MacHack came and went with no news. Then came WWDC….

At WWDC, Apple introduce Xcode 1.0, and one of its featured was a distributed build system. It was based on distcc, as it turned out, and anecdotal evidence suggested that our system was more efficient, but we could see the writing on the wall.

We closed down the Web site without having made a single sale.

Now, as stated above, I’m sending NetBuild where it seems many commercial projects go to die, the heaven of Open Source. It is available at my site,

Addendum: Yes, it occurred to me when I started writing about Audigones that I had invented a category especially for my own experience. Certainly I haven’t received an avalanche of Audigone stories, obscure or otherwise. A false generalization? Has Apple really not slain dozens and dozens of companies? Or have I just not reached the right people to tell the tales?

And hey: anybody want a button?