From rick Thu Dec 4 10:05:03 2003
Date: Thu, 4 Dec 2003 10:05:03 -0800
Subject: Re: mac vs linux
User-Agent: Mutt/1.5.4i

Quoting Simon Hosking (

> Can you think why you wouldn't want a stable, Unix box, with everything
> working out of the box?

Proprietary Unix is so 1980.

And NeXTStep was much more elegant before Apple Computer put that wacky paint-job on it.

(I've got an aging iBook with OS X. The Apple-isms are performance-robbing and really irritating over the long term. Somewhere underneath all that gunk is a relatively decent BSD, struggling to get free. However, if for some bizarre reason you want to run lots of proprietary "desktop" software such as MS-Office and Appleworks, or you're doing lots of audio-video works, MacOS X is at least a way superior alternative to the Microsoft-OS horrors.)

Cheers, * Contributing Editor, Linux Gazette *
Rick Moen -*- See the Linux Gazette in its new home: -*- <>

From rick Thu Dec 4 22:16:56 2003
Date: Thu, 4 Dec 2003 22:16:56 -0800
Subject: Re: mac vs linux

Quoting Tim Connors (

> Some visitor here now has one of those 17" powerbooks. *drool*.

Oh yeah. I'd love one. With DVD burning, please. ;->

> Also, Stu showed how the fonts and *everything* go smaller when you
> tile your windows. That is so cool. And perty; if not very functional.

Here's another thing that OS X gets absolutely right: internationalisation. No matter what your language and country settings, the character set, directional flow (right-to-left for some languages, don't forget) and other settings come up absolutely perfectly with no effort, from that point onwards. And every native (Cocoa or Carbon) application effortlessly displays any internationalisation required by the data, regardless of what you say yours is.

Fortunately for me, my own preference is Commonwealth English (e.g., I use "LANG=en_IE@euro"), so I'm in luck on just about any OS.

Cheers, "I don't like country music, but I don't mean to denigrate
Rick Moen those who do. And, for the people who like country music, denigrate means 'put down'." -- Bob Newhart

Date: Thu, 4 Dec 2003 17:10:08 -0800
From: Rick Moen
Subject: Re: mac vs linux
User-Agent: Mutt/1.5.4i

Quoting Peter Ross (

> ?? No. There is definitely progress in the world of the Unix and
> Unix-like systems besides of Linux.

Most of that from running GNU, BSD, and other open-source codebases on them: The proprietary Unixes have (in general terms) been pretty much dinosaurs.

>> And NeXTStep was much more elegant before Apple Computer put that
>> wacky paint-job on it.
> Maybe. I liked the NeXTStep Window System, too. Display Postscript in
> 1992 meant really WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get). Do you
> remember other systems in 1992?

The point is that Apple Computer did ghastly things to what NeXT accomplished with its DPS setup. I'm not talking about the trivial change from DPS to Display PDF, which wasn't significant and was strictly for patent reasons. I'm referring to the revised system's garish and greasy appearance, in sad contrast to the elegantness of the original NeXTStep desktop.

>> (I've got an aging iBook. The Apple-isms are performance-robbing
>> and really irritating over the long term.
> Nobody stops you from disabling Aqua and using Fink to install a recent
> version of XFree86 and the usual X applications you are familiar with.

True. But (1) my Dell running Linux is a lot faster with a whole lot less RAM, and (2) unlike Darwin / Fink / XFree86, its X11 setup is actually useful. E.g., there's GTK, etc.

> (You only have to change one line in /etc/ttys to disable Aqua, and you
> have a quiet and clear command-line box..
> You install XFree86 and change this line a second time, and you have a
> graphical X login..

If I wanted FreeBSD, I'd use my FreeBSD box.

>> Somewhere underneath all that gunk is a relatively decent BSD
> It's a Mach-based system....

Well, not exactly.

The xnu kernel interconnects a derivative of Mach to BSD layers exposed to userspace. In so doing, NeXT many years ago not only forked that codebase from Mach but also (for performance reasons) erased the abstraction features characteristic of microkernels. So, there's Mach-derived code in there, but it's frozen in amber (so to speak), and no longer even remotely qualifies as either Mach or as a microkernel.

Aside from that, what you're saying is non-responsive to to my statement "Somewhere underneath all that gunk is a relatively decent BSD, struggling to get free".

Peter, it would be a BSD even if it were running on actual Mach, as opposed to the derived, monolithic-design xnu codebase. I hope you understand that BSD refers, here, to a comprehensive system framework, not to a particular kernel. Indeed, there have been quite a number of BSDs running on non-BSD-produced kernels (not just {Free|Net|Open|386}BSD and BSDi's BSD OS). Those have not been limited just to NeXT's and Apple Computer's xnu implementation. There's also Tenon Intersystems' MachTen, and a number of others that don't come readily to mind.

(I speak as a user of FreeBSD, a current user of MacOS X, and a former user of NeXTStep and MachTen.)

> It includes some kernel work (e.g. the packet filter), an API and a lot
> of userland derived from 4.4BSD and FreeBSD. It comes with a gcc.

See "If I wanted FreeBSD", above.

> I don't see much disadvantages to use that instead of a Linux
> distribution.


> It comes with an object oriented programming framework embedded into the
> system (kernel and Window system) based on Objective-C.

ObjC is cool. (Good thing we have that in gcc. Jobs was obliged to donate that back to the gcc maintainers, with considerable ill grace, under the terms of the GPL during the NeXT, Inc. days.)

Enterprise Objects Framework and WebObjects are nice accomplishments. Pity about them being proprietary.

> A language with the advantage of runtime binding instead of compile
> time binding as C++ works.

See "ObjC is cool", above.

> You can get grumpy about the licence but that's not a technical question.

You can ignore licensing, but that's an evasion.

> In short: if you are using Darwin without the Apple add-ons or
> professional software, you have a system similiar to a Linux box.

See "If I wanted FreeBSD", above. (I assume by "profesional", you mean software under a restrictive, proprietary licence, a wholly different concept, really.)

Please note that FreeBSD has one hell of a lot better performance, and stability.

> Sorry, the subject invites to a flame war.

I suspect we're being treated to a "witnessing". Proprietary-OS people seem to do that a lot. (I'd kind of forgotten.)

Cheers, * Contributing Editor, Linux Gazette *
Rick Moen -*- See the Linux Gazette in its new home: -*- <>

From rick Sat Dec 6 00:38:42 2003
Date: Sat, 6 Dec 2003 00:38:42 -0800
Subject: Re: mac vs linux
User-Agent: Mutt/1.5.4i

Quoting Simon Hosking (

> for example, we want to buy a laptop, and be able to (i) connect to an
> ISP without first learning about ppp,

Suffices to use any modern Linux or *BSD with an advanced installer (e.g., Libranet, Xandros, Mandrake). Of course, OS X does this, too.

> (ii) use wireless and pcmcia without learning all about their
> technicalities.


> (iii) install software without having to fix Makefiles, or find
> dependencies.

Libranet, Xandros, Debian.... If you're having to futz with these things on Linux, you're almost certainly making some fundamentally wrong choices -- same as on OS X.

> so, we have been considering OS.X.

In general terms, it'll definitely work, and I certainly hope you're happy with it. You'll have some headaches you won't have with Linux:

The Mac guys will treat the above as perfectly normal. As they always have, and always will. "Cupertino is your friend; trust Cupertino.<tm>"

You'll gain:

> perhaps Bill Joy (co founder of Sun Microsystems) captures our
> position more clearly in this interview with wired magazine: "And yet
> you've been famously cool about Linux. Re-implementing what I
> designed in 1979 is not interesting to me personally. For kids who are
> 20 years younger than me, Linux is a great way to cut your teeth. It's
> a cultural phenomenon and a business phenomenon. Mac OS X is a
> rock-solid system that's beautifully designed. I much prefer it to
> Linux.

Bill Joy's been happily mouthing off like this, in goofily general terms, for several years, comfortable in the knowledge that he can pontificate endlessly to reporters without being challenged by them on technology details. One of the pleasures of retirement for him, apparently, is to take ex-cathedra potshots at everything that's annoyed him for the last two decades, without consequence (and you can bet that nothing has cost him more money in stock price decline than the advent of Linux).

The "cultural phenomenon" is indeed there, but unfortunately it's the same old brain-damaged Mac user community with a small sprinkling of (us) grizzled NeXTStep types who get lost in the crowd.

And it's a "rock-solid system" compared to Mac OS9, but that's setting the bar pretty low. Over the years, you'll have problems that just simply shouldn't exist on a Unix. Part of that's the sucky filesystem options, but it doesn't stop there. (We could have a long digression about the HFS+ versus FFS/UFS dilemma, but I'd rather not.)

> What about the open source idea in general?
> Open source is fine, but it doesn't take a worldwide community to create
> a great operating system. Look at Ken Thompson creating Unix...

Ken, Dennis, and Brian (the latter two of whom Joy seems to have forgotten) created an incredibly primitive operating system sufficient to run Space Travel and roff. It was Unix in pretty much the same sense that Gottleib Daimler and Karl Benz's modified horse-buggy was an automobile. Joy must be aware that he's kissing the blarney stone in this and the items that follow, but, hey, he's speaking for the benefit of technophobe reporters and the Worldwide Church of Cupertino.

> Stephen Wolfram writing Mathematica in a summer...

Impressive, but not to be compared to operating systems.

> James Gosling in his office making Java.

And it still doesn't have a decent graphics subsystem that makes sense, still doesn't perform decently, and still is vastly overhyped and forcibly adapted to situations where it doesn't make sense. But I suppose Joy has to talk it up, to help prop up his flagging portfolio.

Oddly enough, the one thing Apple Computer has done in recent years that's most ticked off its third-party developer community and almost incite them -- even the glassy-eyed hordes of true-believer Carbon and Cocoa developers -- to open rebellion, has been the de-emphasis of ObjC and lurch towards Java. They've actually been obliged to soften that.

> Now, there's nothing wrong with letting other people help,
> but open source doesn't assist the initial creative act.

As Joy is fully aware, the benefit of open source lies not at all in the initial creative act, but rather in the ability to keep the software usable and thriving over long (decade and more) time spans, despite business fortunes and misfortunes, technical / political / monetary booms and busts, retirements, apprenticeships, divorces and squabbles.

It appeals to those of us who've been burned once too many times by being sucked into a proprietary framework that then was withdrawn from the market, or rendered unusable, or moved in some stupidly inexplicable direction in defiance of the user community's wants and needs. We now go back there only when the temporary gains outweigh the likelihood of long-term annoyance and disappointment.

> What we need now are great things. I don't need to see the source
> code. I just want a system that works."

And, over the long term, your best guarantee of a system that continues to just work is open source. Just ask the BeOS people.

> perhaps we're just becoming impatient in our old age?

Perhaps Bill Joy is just becoming a cranky Sun shareholder in his.

Cheers, "The only good goth is a shoggoth...."
Rick Moen -- Alistair J.R. Young, in r.a.sf.w.r-j