Friday, 27 June 2008

My new purchase

I'm a great fan of Unix-based OS's in general, not just Linux. I've tried OpenSolaris, Hurd and a couple of the BSD's in VirtualBox (when I could get them to work!) and liked most of them, but there's one I've not tried till recently. Here's a clue: you can't get it free.
Yes, it's OS X. But I decided to bite the bullet and bought a MacBook. At £799, it's my single most expensive purchase, ever. But, what the hell. I can afford it and it'll be fun.
Here's the list of reasons why I decided to get one:
  1. I could be one of those people on Digg who, when a squabble over which OS is better starts, could say "I use all three and they're all cool, leave it alone".
  2. More likely, I could say "I use all three and Linux is the best"!
  3. I wanted a new computer and I decided a while ago I'm not going to pay for any more copies of Windows, which narrows it down to one with preinstalled Linux or a Mac. And I already have a Dell and an Eee PC.
  4. Macs are supposed to be good for running Linux on (that was before I found out that this one uses the dreaded Broadcom wireless card...)
  5. I might well wind up using Macs at work once I've finished my IT course, so it'd be a good idea to get used to them.

So, what is my impression of it? Well, it looks good from the outset, but I am REALLY finding the desktop to be a b**** to use compared to KDE. I'm beginning to be able to use it, but it's a struggle. I also find it a pain to install things - I keep wanting to open the terminal and type "sudo apt-get install firefox". And I must be one of the first people to buy a Mac and go running straight for the terminal! And so far as I can see if you wanted to install something like a new version of Perl or Python, the only way you could do so would be by compiling it from source.

The applications included are good (the likes of Garageband and PhotoBooth are fun to play with), but there are some things that seem odd. Why, for instance, is there not even a basic word processor, equivalent to MS Works? Do Apple think people will want to store their photos and create music, but then not even want to write a letter? Many of these people won't know about things like NeoOffice or OpenOffice.

From a development side it's very good - I'm really surprised at that. It comes with Apache and Rails preinstalled, and you even get the Xcode IDE on the install disc. But it's probably actually worse than Linux for gaming - most Linux distros include a few games, OS X has chess only, and Linux has plenty of native games free to download as well as things like Wine and Cedega to let you use Windows games.

So, overall I'm impressed in many ways - Apple do get a lot right. But I still think that Linux is the superior operating system - it's FAR more flexible as you can remaster distros, change the desktop and do whatever you want with it, whereas OS X is more restricted. But OS X is defining proof that a Unix-like OS can work for pretty much any user, which is good news for Linux too. After all, one hardware manufacturer will never be able to grab the whole of the market, and if Windows starts becoming a liability to OEMs (as it may already be, considering the rough ride Vista has had), then they will start looking for an alternative that can compete better with OS X, and that will almost certainly mean Linux. Better manufacturer support will almost eliminate the technical reasons that keep people from switching to Linux, and better software support will attract more users. So, in a way, any increase in market share for OS X may well also benefit Linux, and shake up the moribund OS market.


Dave R. said...

I found your blog in digg, it's pretty cool I have to say...some good reading that stimulates the mind.

lambda said...

I also just found your blog in digg, definitly a converted reader now. I found you via your post on linux being a better gaming system than windows etc.

Keep it up xD