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?

An Elementary Audigone: Watson

As noted in the comments of my first Audigone post, I forgot a very prominent Audigone, Karelia Software‘s Watson.

Watson is the real deal: sold for money, confronted with new features in Sherlock 3 (10.2 Jaguar) that did similar things for free, and now cancelled. See this 9/02 O’Reilly interview with chief architect Dan Wood for details.

The partial good news is that Dan Wood was able to get some money for the technology from Sun. The bad news is that Sun appears to be sitting on the technology, so a new cross-platform product based on it may not appear soon. The other good news is that Karelia is apparently working on something new.

Now, it’s interesting to note, Watson was cancelled because, to keep up with the outside service providers, Dan Wood would have had to spend ongoing effort updating Watson. Contrast that with other utilities I classify as almost-Audigone because they’re still technically supported, but “support” means at most doing a dot update for each new OS release.


The made-up word ‘Audigone,’ according to timestamps, was first used in this Forward Address: OS X post, as a way of describing the cancellation of Panic‘s commercial MP3-playing application Audion in the face of competition from Apple’s free iTunes.

The entertaining history of Audion makes me wonder how many other inspiration stories there are out there of…uh, Apple mercilessly crushing its independent developers.

So, despite the fact that it’s not my word, I am hereby defining ‘the Audigone’. In order to qualify as an Audigone, something must be:

1) sold for money.
2) confronted with a rival Apple product.
3) discontinued because of said product.

Added points for going out with a spirited fight. Subtracted points for bitching hypocritically about Apple during your concession speech.

While I believe there are many Audigones, the only true Audigone so far publicly revealed to me is Audion itself.

But because there’s nothing else to talk about, I’m also christening the ‘almost-Audigone,’ something that just misses being an Audigone by conforming to only 2 out of the 3 requirements.

Here is a list of almost-Audigones:

Internet Explorer
Competitor: Safari
Not a true Audigone on account of its freeware status, and minus points for whining about not having access to OS internals (!). But I suppose it stands to reason: isn’t giving up what Microsoft wishes its browser competitors, like Firefox, would do on the Windows platform?

Competitor: Safari
More of a real Audigone, since it’s sold for money. But not cancelled! After a disappointing demand from the CEO that Apple license Opera (!), they decided to fight on. I was very impressed by Opera as a stripped-down, fast browser on Windows in 1997, and I’ve paid for Mac Opera, but I must say it hasn’t impressed me enough to use over Safari. They’re fighting the good fight, but they’re also depending on other platforms for their revenue.

LiteSwitch X
Competitor: Heads-up Application Switcher in 10.3 Panther
Kudos for their spirited counter-attack: “Dear Apple: You forgot some important features,” and for continuing to sell the product, though that does disqualify them from being a full Audigone.
Boos for the unprofessional open memo asking for official recognition from Apple for “their idea.” The idea that the idea was solely theirs is demolished effectively by Daring Fireball. If they’d stuck to “features,” I might have paid out of solidarity, like I did for Netscape 4.

Competitor: Dashboard
As with LiteSwitch X, Konfabulator’s creator accuses Apple of copying their idea, and once again Daring Fireball assumes rebuttal duty. As with Opera, they will try to make their money on another platform. Should I include “concentrating on Windows” as an alternative to 3)?

Honorable mentions on the almost-Audigone list include Power Computing and all the Macintosh clones (cancelled due to license termination, not product competition) and UserLand Frontier (pretty much killed by AppleScript, though its technology lives on in Manila and other UserLand products and will be (has been?) open sourced).

I’m sure I’m missing a bunch of Audigones, both real and almost-. So remind me!

–And expect a real Audigone story from me in a few days.