Ivan Krstic’ critique of the One Laptop Per Child Project has made its ripples around the pond of the intertubes. Apart from the obvious part where it criticises a major project from an insider’s point of view, it also had a few other remarks that caught people’s attention – most notably the admission that despite his ability to do Linux kernel hacking, his main development laptop is a Macintosh running Mac OS X.The word-by-word quote of the admission is as follows:
I switched to OS X and find it to be an overwhelmingly more enjoyable computing experience. I still have my free software UNIX shell, my free software programming language, my free software ports system, my free software editor, and I run a bunch of free software Linux virtual machines. The vast, near-total majority of computer users aren’t programmers. Of the programmers, a vast, near-total majority don’t dare in the Land o’ Kernel tread. As one of the people who actually can hack my kernel to suit, I find that I don’t miss the ability in the least. There, I said it. Hang me for treason.
Mike Gunderloy expands on this admission with a few interesting remarks. He states that he wouldn’t be surprised if many open source developers “mellow with age” and become less and less purist when it comes to Free software. He explains that the split in the development community isn’t between those who favour open source and those that don’t, but between purists and non-purists. “Personally, I’m happy to have some folks out there trying to change the world,” he writes, “Even though I’m past that point in my life and just want software that works – whatever operating system it happens to run on.”
Dana Blankenhorn ponders if the apparent rush to the Mac by open source programmers will lead to a “flood of open source software for OS X”. According to him, there’s no reason to hold your breath. Note that Krstic isn’t rushing out to create open source software for the Mac. The installed base remains too small to deliver the support revenues necessary for success.” He adds: “And the Mac’s own software bundle leaves few basic niches.”
I think there won’t be a flood of open source software for Mac OS X – but not because of the same reasons as cited by Blankenhorn. The reason there won’t be a flood of open source software for OS X is because they’re already here. Basically every open source software package is available on the Mac, either via a true, native port, or via tools like MacPorts and Fink. Of course, not every package out there will be available for OS X, but not every package out there is available for Windows either – there will always be gaps. But overall, when you use Mac OS X, you’ll have access to your favourite open source Linux tools. And for many, Mac OS X and Aqua are major selling points over Linux.
Just a few weeks ago I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only does Mac OS X ship with Emacs and Vim, it also comes with GNU Nano. I must say, seeing Nano without the contents of my broken
xorg.conf is oddly unnerving.