Apple or Ubuntu

Liam Proven lproven at
Mon Sep 17 03:21:25 UTC 2007

On 17/09/2007, gup502 <gup502 at> wrote:
> I have a friend who is a big fan of Apple and despises MS and Linux.  In
> his opinion, Apple has the best features, even Beryl is considered to be
> just a copy cat.
> I wonder if anyone can share their views on things that Apple OS cannot
> currently provide whereas Linux has an edge.

It used to be that you chose the OS that ran the apps you needed. Now,
you can do most things on most OSs.

However, there are still differences.

Your friend is right.

I will probably get flamed for this, but I bet nobody can refute me
with reasoned evidence.

Mac OS X is a beautiful, solid and powerful OS with a lot of excellent features.

Its desktop is smoother, prettier and more pleasant to use than GNOME.
Its single Dock and single menu bar offer the functions of GNOME's
multiple panels and so on, and Apple's version both looks better and
is simpler.

Apple's bundled apps are not so functionally rich in places as
Ubuntu's, but what they do, they do very well, the inter-app
integration is excellent, and in some places, you get very
considerable power for free and in a very easy-to-use form (e.g.

Apple's OS is vastly more polished than any Linux distro, altho' Linux
is moving fast, especially Ubuntu. You need never drop to a command
line, whereas it's still common on Linux where there are holes in the
GUI. (E.g. when GNOME "mounts" a network share, it's a special GNOME
connection, it's not mounted in the filesystem in the normal way, so
it's invisible to many non-GNOME apps; indeed, it's inaccessible to -
for instance - the File|Open dialog in many GNOME apps themselves).

Apple uses 3D acceleration to provide useful functions like Expose and
the Dashboard, whereas Beryl and Compiz are still basically eye-candy.
Rotating desktop cubes are all very pretty but it doesn't offer
anything a simple pager panel doesn't do.

Apple's range of professional 3rd party apps is better, with tools
from Photoshop to Maya to InDesign. There are FOSS equivalents but
they are generally considerably inferior. Good enough for amateurs,
often not for pros.

On an Intel Mac, the integration with Windows possible through
Parallels Desktop's Coherence is superlative; VMware or whatever on
Linux is a much more basic VM-in-a-window experience.

Mac OS X is only 7y old. However, OS X is basically NeXTstep 5 or 6,
and NeXTstep is more like 20y old and was a world-beating OS before
Linus started work on his new kernel. Linux is still playing catch-up.

In some of the areas of OS X's excellence, the traditional Unix world
is extremely reluctant to take the same steps. NeXT and Apple did away
with many traditional Unix features: they got rid of X.11, they don't
really use /etc for config files any more in favour of a networked
config database, they ignore the traditional Unix filesystem tree of
/home and /usr and so on for their own, more obviously-named

The result has been that in this century alone, Apple has gone from a
standing start to being the world's biggest Unix system vendor in
terms of either individual installations of its OS or active users.
Indeed, OS X is mainly used on a one machine/one user basis, something
Sun or IBM or HP can only dream of. Apple has sold tens of millions of
Unix machines; I suspect that OS X's sales now exceed those of all
other commercial Unixes ever put together.

It's very hard to estimate how many people are running Free Unixes,
because largely, its users don't buy it, they merely download it or
get it from a friend or something. However, it's a safe bet that there
are a lot more OS X users than Linux + NetBSD + OpenBSD + FreeBSD
users put together. Indeed I would strongly suspect that there are
more OS X users now than all other forms of Unix put together since
Unix was invented.

And most non-Microsoft-fanboy commentators tend to agree that OS X is
the most sophisticated and elegant desktop OS in the world today.

So love it or hate it, Apple is doing something right!

I think in time that the FOSS world will catch up. Maybe not all the
way - Apple's status as both software house and hardware vendor offers
strengths in integration that the PC industry will never be able to

Me? I'm typing on an Ubuntu box. My Mac sits next to it, currently
turned off, as it has been for a few weeks. But that's because my
newest and most powerful Mac is a 400MHz G3. It's a lovely machine and
a pleasure to use, but I can get a lot more PC for a lot less money
than I can Apple kit, and that includes the trailing-edge Freegan type
of hardware I prefer to run.

But if I had £5000 to spend on a PC, or £2000 to spend on a notebook,
I'd be running a Macintel - an 8-core Mac Pro or a maxed-out MacBook
Pro 15". I'd have Windows and Linux in VMs, but I'd be using OS X

And lest I be accused of bigotry, all the serious Linux evangelists
I've known over the last 10-12y or so - not the recent converts, the
hardcore Linux people who were using Linux from v1.0 or before - just
about all of them now run Macs. OS X is still Unix underneath; you can
run it from a Bash prompt if you want, and I know many who do. But it
is a better Unix than Linux if what you want is a hassle-free, simple,
working desktop or portable.

The only guy - and there is just one - I know who still runs Linux
from choice is a deeply paranoid security freak who doesn't trust any
app of which he has not scrutinized the source code. If one is
obsessed with Free software, getting at the source, or want the best
security one can get, one probably will run a Free Unix. But even this
one paranoid type runs Linux, Debian, in fact, because he knows it and
presumably because it's easier or more complete, even though he
/could/ be running OpenBSD.

Me? I run Linux because I like it, enough that I'm prepared to
tolerate its flaws and vicissitudes, because I find it interesting and
fun to run a rapidly-evolving Free OS, but most of all, because
nothing offers better value for money.

Linux does have advantages.
 - Getting the source code is purely theoretical for 99.99% of
computer users; very few have the skills and knowledge to read C
listings and understand them, let alone tweak them. It's nice but it
doesn't matter to the *vast* majority.
 - Security, and the ability of 3rd parties to fix problems, is a big
consideration for some.
 - Vendor independence is important, as is the total lack of vendor lock-in.
 - Cheap abundant hardware is a major bonus.
 - And of course most distros cost little or nothing.

But in terms of quality of experience, of integration, of app quality,
of OS & app capabilities, or even appearance, Apple is currently the
world leader. Then comes MS. /Then/ comes Linux, followed by FreeBSD,
then OpenBSD and NetBSD.

Liam Proven • Profile:
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