The Macro Assembler AS - The Story Around The Apple Version
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in the past time, I have received a couple of requests to include support to compile AS on Apple systems. Such support materialized recently, and many of you might not understand why it took so long. I will explain why.

Until about fall 2011, I simply did not have access to any Apple system, so I was unable to verify the functionality of any patch sent to me. I had had some unpleasant mail exchanges with Apple 'fanboys' in the past, and I decided to silently ignore these contributions to avoid unnecessary arguments.

People who have read something about me on these pages know that I work as a software engineer for LANCOM Systems, mainly in the area of wireless networking. We recently had to deal with a bunch of problems with Apple's WLAN clients, and as a side effect of these activities, I now had a shiny new Apple MacBook Pro sitting on my desk.

Thankfully, my employer doesn't mind that employees use their company laptops also for private things from time to time. In December 2011, I had some leftover vacation days, resulting in three weeks of vacation over Christmas and New Year. I thought this would be enough to find one or two days to deal with this, so I took the MacBook with me into the holidays. Regarding OS APIs, AS is quite a simple command-line tool, and OSX is more or less a Unix-style OS, so I thought the job would be done after adding just a few lines to some makefiles and headers.

So this morning (Jan 5th, 2012), I fired up the Mac and started working on it. I'm a firm believer in command lines and don't like bloated GUIs, so I opened a terminal, FTPed the AS archive over from may main Linux PC and untarred it. So far, so good...

...until bash plainly told me that there was neither a gcc nor a make. Well, I thought, OK, Apples are mainly built for users and not for developers, so development tools must be some sort of optional package. No, I did not get any CD along with the machine, so I searched for a GCC port for OSX. I quickly learned that this is part of some program called 'XCode', which could be downloaded from So I pointed the pre-installed Safari to this URL...

That was roughly the point of time when my blood pressure reached an unhealthy level and when I decided that all this is not worth the time and effort. I effectively gave up and packed the MacBook back under the desk, where it is going to remain for the rest of my no out-of the box Apple support in AS for the foreseeable future, I'm terribly sorry.

It might be that some of the more 'Apple-experienced' of you will tell me that I simply made everything wrong and just have do this and that and yadda yadda - presto, there is the compiler. That might all be, but keep in mind that I have effectively never used a Mac for this before. I was always under the impression that Apple OSes are made to be especially user-friendly to newbies, but somehow all this hasn't been user friendly to me. I have been working on an Apple ][ with CP/M in the past - yes my first computer was an Apple, though only a cloned one (couldn't afford anything more back then). I have been working with DOS and OS/2, and for almost two decades now I use Linux as my main operating system and I'm quite satisfied with that.

If that experience is somehow 'biasing' me in some way that I cannot get along with the "Apple way" (App stores, GUIs, user interfaces geared for novices), then I'm sorry but that's it. And don't tell me anything that my attitude toward usage of a computer is outdated or wrong, this is just a lame excuse for a system not being able to adapt to a user's needs, or an indication of people not able to understand that there is more than one (their) way to use a computer. Machines should adapt to humans and not vice versa.

Apple may make great and solid hardware, and the way their software is organized may address a huge part of people today, but I'm obviously not part of them. I'm neither proud nor sorry about this, it's just the way it is.

Nevertheless, if there is a less painful way of getting a C compiler on a Mac, let me know. I may have calmed down by then and be ready for another attempt...

[Update 2012-01-11] In the meantime, I found the CD that was originally shipped with the MacBook. It did contain a packet of XCode, which however turned out to be useless since the machine had been upgraded to a newer version of OSX in the meantime - the installer refused to operate. So still no go...

[Update 2012-09-24] A few weeks ago, Nils Eilers was so kind to give me remote access to his Mac. So I could add the necessary parts to the Makefiles. The latest build should compile out-of-the-box with the supplied Makefile.def. So this story somehow found a good end. However, Apple products and me still aren't going to become friends...

© Alfred Arnold 2012