posted by Anthony Hicks on Tue 8th Apr 2003 16:17 UTC

"Mac OS X"
I've played with OSX a bit, and I must say that it has a lot of impressive features. Unfortunately, the first things that come to mind when I think of OSX is "Mmmm... Eye Candy", rather than "What an outstanding OS. I can see this growing and maturing with me and my development environment".

I'm sure that a lot of this impression is due to me not owning or having 24-hour access to OSX, hence my knowledge of it is more from reading, and the odd "doodling" while in my local Mac resellers. With that said, I would love to have an OSX box around, and based on my limited experiences, I feel that OSX would have the potential to become my main machine. However... I don't have such access, and I certainly can't afford one currently. Let's delve into the pluses and minus's I've perceived, as they apply to my dream system.

OSX Plus's: 

  • Eye Candy: I've touched on this before, but eye candy is important to me. OSX has lots of it! Behind the superficial though is a robust, very stable Unix backend. I've not spent any time on dedicated Unix boxes, but I have spent considerable amounts of time on Linux systems, so I can appreciate many of the features that a Unix based OS would provide me with. In short, OSX looks and feels "cool", It's fun to use, and it really reminds me of how a computer can look and feel when it's entirely produced according to one company's plans and recommendations.
  • Easy to use: Apple doesn't appear to have "dumbed down" OSX to the extreme that Microsoft has its Windows XP release, but OSX is undeniably easy and intuitive to use. It's software uses common controls and looks to create a truly unified, "all-in-one" computer system that's easy-to-use, while being capable of everything from audio and video editing, to such simple pleasures as browsing the web and checking email.
  • Excellent multimedia capabilities. OSX is an excellent candidate for graphical work, as well as sound and video editing. Its low latency and high quality inputs show that it was made with multimedia uses in mind.
  • Unix backend: Unlike previous versions of Apple operating systems, OSX is built on a Unix kernel (FreeBSD actually), and as such it's as rock solid and powerful as you'd expect. Similar to Linux, I'm told it's virtually impossible to kill the underlying OSX system. This reliability, in addition to the fact that it makes it much easier to use Linux and Unix apps under OSX, is a very big plus for this operating system. I like the fact that it's both pretty and easy to use, in addition to built on a rock-solid base.

OSX Minus's:

  • Cost: Lets face it, Apples are very expensive, and for the money they're underpowered. I won't get into the usual arguments about Apples quality nor about how PPC systems can outperform similar x86 systems, but the facts are that you can purchase a very powerful x86 based PC for the same money that it would cost you to purchase a modest Apple machine. I can appreciate that quality costs money, but I can't justify Apples prices no matter how "pretty" their machines look. In my opinion, you can build an equally capable, and sharp looking Linux machine for a fraction of the cost of an Apple.

  • Additionally, unless I want to run my Windows apps under Virtual PC (which also costs $$), I have to purchase all new versions of my software in order to run them natively under OSX. When you add the price of the PC together with the cost associated with purchasing all new software, it gets very expensive very quickly.
  • That damn mouse: Here's an argument that's been around for as long as the Mac itself has. It goes something like this:

    x86 User: I can't stand the fact that the Mac only has one mouse button. I need at least two to be really productive!

    Mac User: You can do everything you can with 2 buttons just as easy, if not easier on a Mac with just one button. Anyway, if you really need a mouse with more buttons, you can buy them and add them to your system.

    x86 User: But that's adding even more cost to an already expensive system. For the money I'd spend on a Mac, it should come "ready to use" out of the box!

    And so on.

    For my needs, I recently purchased a 7 button MS Intellimouse, and I'd find it very difficult to use anything but now. The ability to assign different tasks to the extra buttons dependant upon the program you're using, is a huge plus to using both Windows and Linux. Yes, you can probably get an Intellimouse up and running under OSX, but I agree that for the money you're spending, having to immediately replace your expensive mouse is indeed a pain in the you-know-what! Even such simple things as surfing the web are made that much easier if you can just hit the side buttons of your mouse to move forward or backwards. Similarly, coding is much easier being able to use the mouse's buttons to copy and paste. Suffice it to say that I need that Intellimouse to work with my dream system!
  • Future's unclear: Not to turn myself into a swami, but if you follow the news, Apple's future is very much in flux right now. No, I'm not one of those people who think that Apple's going to go away, but they're definitely going to be changing something as far as their architecture goes.

    While much of this is speculation, it's fairly well known that Apple's about fed up with Motorola's inability to produce faster chips in a timely manner. Just the other day Adobe released a report stating that an x86 PC is preferable over an Apple box for graphic design work simply because the raw computing power in an Apple is so far behind it's x86 counterparts. This is pretty powerful stuff considering that Apple's crown jewel has always been Photoshop, and it's users are generally artistic-type people who swear by Adobe.

    What remains to be seen is how Apple will deal with this setback. Rumors indicate that it can go one of 4 ways right now:

    1. Apple switches over to x86 chips.
    2. Apple switches over to AMD's forthcoming 64bit x86 compatible chip (The infamous Opteron we've all been hearing about)
    3. Apple switches over to IBM's forthcoming PPC chip, which is miles ahead of Motorolas offerings (supposedly... These aren't even in production yet).
    4. Or Apple chooses to stay with Motorola and tries to increase their market share through other methods besides raw computing power.

    If anything other than number 4 happens, Apple will have to re-tool OSX for use with the new CPU, and this will more than likely mean that all existing OSX software will have to be re-coded to work with the new systems.

    I don't know about you, but I'd hate to spend $5000.00 on new Apple hardware and OSX software only to find out six months later that my system and software are now obsolete, and that if I want updates and such, I'll have to upgrade to the new platform. This is unacceptable to me, and it's really unfortunate that Apple is in such a position. They're still trying to woo developers over to OSX, and just as they're staring to make some headway, they must make a decision which would essentially send them back to square one in the game.

    So now that we've identified the 3 biggies in the OS world (Well, 2 biggies, and one "also ran"), let's look at what this article's supposed to be about: Linux!

    To be fair, I'm going to do a quick plus/minus review of Linux also before we delve into the various Linux distributions. As much as I like it, Linux isn't any more perfect than the other OS's we've discussed (Well... Maybe it's "more perfect" than some of these, but it's not perfect itself!).
Table of contents
  1. "Intro, Windows"
  2. "BeOS"
  3. "Mac OS X"
  4. "GNU/Linux"
  5. "Linux Minus"
  6. "Linux Distros: Yoper"
  7. "Linux Distros: Redhat 8.x (Phoebe)"
  8. "Linux Distros: Mandrake 9.1 RC2"
  9. "Linux Distros: Ark Linux"
  10. "Linux Distros: Vector Linux (Soho 3.2)"
  11. "Linux Distros: Gentoo Linux (and other source based distros)"
  12. "Linux Distros: Suse Linux, Conclusion"
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