Apple Mac OS X FAQ
Sunday, December 14, 2003
For those about to switch…
For those about to switch…

When OS X arrived on the scene, it didn’t just represent a visual departure from OS 9, but it completely rebuilt the Macintosh operating system as we knew it. You may have heard the words Darwin, Aqua and Quartz tossed around, but what they mean and where they fit in OS X’s schema can be a bit tricky. Let’s take a look at OS X’s architecture, from the ground up.

Darwin: The modular, open-source UNIX-based foundation of OS X, built on such technologies as FreeBSDand Apache. Darwin’s design allows for dynamic loading of device drivers, network extensions and file systems. Darwin “ensures reliability by protecting applications with a robust architecture that allocates a unique address space for each application or process,” which allows OS X to manage each application separately (e.g. Photoshop and iMovie), presenting users with a seamless, smooth experience.

OpenGL: The industry standard for visualizing 3D shapes and textures. OpenGL’s consistency enables high-end graphics, making it the ideal platform for games, animation, medical imaging, and virtually any application which visualized shapes in two- and three-dimensional environments.

Quartz: The foundation of the OS X imaging model. Everything appearing on the OS X desktop is the result of millions upon millions of Quartz calculations, which in turn relies upon the widely-accepted Portable Document Format (PDF). “Quartz delivers crisp graphics, anti-aliased fonts, and blends 2D, 3D and QuickTime content together with transparency and drop shadows. No other operating system delivers the high-quality graphics rendering of Quartz.” In other words, Quartz uses OpenGL to convert each window into a “texture,” creating an image that the graphics card can then render on screen.

Quartz Extreme: Quartz Extreme uses a graphics card built into supported Macs to relieves the processor(s) of on-screen calculations, thus improving system performance and making OS X more responsive.

Cocoa: An object-oriented application environment designed specifically for OS X-native apps.

Carbon: A set of procedural application program interfaces that access the power of OS X. Carbon allows applications to take advantage of OS X’s strengths, such as multi-processing support, Quartz or Quartz Extreme, and the Aqua (see below) interface. Basically, it’s Cocoa on speed.

Aqua: The visible expression of OS X. Whether stripes or metal, Panther or Jaguar, Aqua is what you see, in all its shadowed subtlety.

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