Apple has released the source code of the XNU kernel used in its macOS and iOS mobile operating systems on GitHub for developers. Apple has made kernel of every version of iOS and macOS up till iOS 10.3.3 and macOS 10.13 open source.
Has delighted fans of the world by taking steps to publish every single version of iOS kernel and macOS kernel in an open-source capacity. Just don’t expect to make a homebrew iPhone or an ARM-based Mac. The first version of OS X, Apple has regularly released the kernel source code for Macs. For iOS, though? Not so simple. In theory, you could learn from macOS kernel or even build your own projects from it.
As aforementioned, even if you had iOS source code, it wouldn’t matter much unless it was optimized for the ARM-based chips that you see in most phones and mobile tablets. Now, Apple seems to be shaking things up a bit. The company has quietly posted ARM-friendy source code for the XNU kernels used in iOS and macOS.
Those are particularly relevant if you’re interested in iOS, since you now have code that would theoretically run on an iPhone or iPad. However, it’s not quite the breakthrough move it seems at first blush.
Apple makes Kernel of every iOS and macOS version Open-Source?
The publication means that each and every individual version of the company’s firmware kernel is now available to download online, inspect, and interrogate to find out out more about how macOS and iOS are put together at the lowest kernel level. In fact, Apple always taken the public stance that “open source is at the heart” of the platform that it builds.
The builds include operating systems and platforms like iOS and macOS, which are used on a daily basis by users across the globe. Along with server software like OS X Server and tools aimed at the development community, like the iOS SDK which contains all of the technologies and APIs that developers need to create cutting-edge apps. Actually, Apple’s platforms are puely based on extremely popular open-source creations, such as the UNIX core. That is the reason why they are then pushed back and made available online under Apple’s Open Source License.
To start: this is just a kernel, the low-level code that groves the most critical functions. Also, it doesn’t cover the interface, developer frameworks or even apps… that it, the parts that truly define iOS or macOS. Such elements are still closed off, so you would have to build most of the platform from the scratch.
Well! You won’t see iOS on a Galaxy S8 any time soon. But Apple offers a relatively limited source code license that isn’t as flexible as, say, the GPL license used for LINUX.
With that said, with Apple’s public approach of open-source, the development and research community has always had a problem with how long it actually takes Apple to publish something back to the community under the already mentioned Apple Open Source license.
While the publishing of macOS kernel source code up until version 10.13, and iOS kernel source up until version 10.3.3 should go some way to alleviating those complaints, and should definitely give developers and individuals something to sink their investigative teeth into.
Moreover, while the presence of ARM-based Mac code is bound to raise eyebrows, this doesn’t reasonably means that you’re about to see a MacBook with an A11 Bionic chip inside. You certainly aren’t about to install macOS on your ARM-based Chromebook, either.
Besides all the rumors of Apple developing ARM-based companion chips for Macs, which may need ARM code even if it has no intention of ditching Intel for CPUs.
The Apple open source website has been updated to include open source kernel of macOS all the way up to version 10.13 (High Sierra), and iOS kernel up until version 10.3.3 (public build) available for iOS 10. Unfortunately, there’s no iOS 11 kernel source hosted on the page just yet but it shouldn’t be too long before that is made available to download.
Clicking into each one lets you see individual aspects of the build and investigate them for educational purposes, which is perfect solution for those starting out on this type of career or for students wanting to learn more.
All of the same, it’s a welcome move. This gives app and OS developers a better understanding on how Apple tackles basic system tasks, particularly on iOS. Anyone ambitious enough to write a full operating system could eventually use XNU as a starting point. You can find out more about the release notes, including having the ability to download each version or individual parts thereof to your machine, over at opensource.apple.com.
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