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October 06, 2002

Continuing to wait for Linux desktops

OfB.biz: Open for Business - Mac OS X: An Apple a Day keeps the Penguins Away?

To: Tim Butler
From: Frank Steele
Subject: OS X Column


I enjoyed your column, but I think you overlook a few things.

You mention that "none of the really interesting additions Apple has made to the system are under a Free Software license - or any public access source code license at all", but what about Rendezvous/ZeroConf (www.zeroconf.org)? Apple has the first implementation of the open standard, and they made it available last week, under the FSF (and GNU, I think)-approved Apple Public Source License. This is a very sweet technology for peer-to-peer device discovery, likely to show up first in printers and other peripherals that will need Zero Configuration (hence the name). More info: http://developer.apple.com/macosx/rendezvous/.

In "Myth #3", you say:

As an example, lets consider a typical Linux installation. Recently in OfB Labs, I did an install of MandrakeSoft's new Mandrake Linux 9.0. Going with the predetermined settings for everything, I got an extremely stable, perfectly working system setup in a way that any newbie would have no trouble getting started with. Did I mention this was on a laptop even?

I think you and I can agree that "Did I mention this was on a laptop even?" suggests that your readers will be surprised by the ease of installation you experienced on a laptop. Heck, the whole paragraph suggests that even you were a little surprised at how smoothly it went. I installed OS X on my 3-year-old PowerBook with ZERO issues (In fact, I kicked the installation off, and headed off to Team Trivia: How's that for confidence?) Nobody I've talked to has had any trouble getting OS X to run on Apple hardware (and of course, it makes things a lot easier on Apple that they only have to worry about a limited range of hardware and devices).

I have installed Linux on at least a half-dozen other boxes over 3-4 years and have always had to fiddle with the configuration, even on "plain-vanilla" x86 desktops. XFree86, in particular, has put me through some long nights (though of course it's gotten better over the years). The issues with laptop manufacturers choosing WinModems that have been unsupportable in Linux is a well-known one that couldn't come up with Apple, since they make both the hardware and the software.

Your choice of words in support of the latest Linux desktop environments is revealing, as well: KDE has "made major leaps toward unique, intuitive interfaces", and GNOME 2.2 "promises to bring choice to the selection of well polished, robust Linux desktops". Both suggest incomplete progression toward a goal. Some of us have been waiting for Linux desktops to get finished for years, but OS X is fully cooked and ready to go right now.

In "Myth #4: The Microsoft Factor", you suggest that you would rather run the "more popular" Windows Office via CrossOver than "the perennially late Mac port". Actually, the Mac version of Office is developed by a separate business unit that often drops in new functionality before the Windows version and that's frequently reviewed as a better application than its Windows cousin -- checking out any review of Office for the Mac should confirm this; it seems like this was especially true of Office 2001.

In your conclusion, you suggest that you couldn't say OS X "has any advantage that will increase the ROI of your deployment" as compared to Linux, but I disagree: you're more likely to find Mac clients than Linux for the groupware software -- corporate calendars, e-mail, contacts, etc. -- that most businesses run on, even for (shudder!) Microsoft Exchange. If you have to roll your own solution to get access to these resources, you're looking at a lot of investment without a large return. Sure, if you're starting up a new company, you can elect open-source tools, but most business machines have to integrate with whatever the IS group provides.

I continue to hope that one day, the Linux desktops will combine slick functionality, good interface design, and user-friendliness, but since the arrival of OS X, I no longer need for them to do so. The power of open-source is tremendous, but never underestimate the ability of a motivated, well-financed, customer-oriented company to get things done.

Thanks for an interesting column, and for your work on Open for Business...

Frank Steele

October 6, 2002 in Apple, Apple - General | Permalink


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Yea Frank and Apple!

Posted by: Nell at Oct 6, 2002 12:49:48 PM

Nice rebuttal: I think it's interesting how the linux hordes seem to be unaccepting of OS X where FreeBSD, et al, are more open-minded. I've seen many articles that boil down to "it's not linux." Well, we know that: perhaps we're looking for something that linux doesn't offer.

I understand the desktop-readiness argument: KDE3 is pretty fully-baked, and runs quite well on a 600 MHz laptop, and I expect GNOME has made some strides since last I looked at it. It is hard to beat the integration that comes of a single source like Apple represents.

I gave up on linux a year ago, perhaps more, after the weaknesses of the RPM package management system hung me out to dry one too many times. The strength of the ports collection in freeBSD can't be underestimated: it's fantastic to just add an application or utility and be confident it's going to install completely with all its dependencies resolved.

On OS X, Fink is close to this ideal, but as I re-discovered this weekend, there are still some internal dependency issues. I'll be documenting them later.

It's essential to remember that the *BSDs and OS X are a complete OS with applications and utilities: linux is just a kernel and different distributions can offer widely divergent experiences.

Your points on ROI are well-taken: all the open source karma in the world doesn't help you if it doesn't get the job done.

Posted by: paul at Oct 6, 2002 2:56:13 PM

I just read the article myself, and you were far too nice. And if you read the comments others have left, you'll be encouraged.

Posted by: paul at Oct 7, 2002 12:27:03 AM