Practical Technology

for practical people.

Why Mac OS isn’t the best OS Around

When I recently explained one of the many reasons why I prefer desktop Linux to Windows, even over my favorite desktop Windows, XP SP3, I got a lot of people telling me I was full of hooey because I barely even mentioned Mac OS X.

Good enough, here’s my take on Apple’s Mac OS X.

First, I really like Mac OS X. I’ve liked it, in fact, since before there was a Mac OS X. I loved it since its first incarnation, as NeXTStep back in 1993. One of my computing regrets is that in 1995 I swapped my Color Turbo NeXTStation (Sob!) for an Adtran T1 Network Facility Interface. What can I say? I really needed a 1.544Mbps Internet connection when that kind of speed was almost unheard of for a home office.

These days I run Tiger, Mac OS X 10.4 on my PowerPC Mac Mini and Leopard, Mac OS X 10.5 on my Intel Core Duo iMac. Oh, and for the sake of completeness, I should also mention my still running Mac IIsi from 1992, which uses System 7.6.1. Finally, when I can afford it, I really want a MacBook Air.

So, with all that, why isn’t Mac OS X my favorite operating system? Because, even though its family tree goes back to open-source BSD Unix and the Mach kernel, Mac OS X is a proprietary black box. I have some very good clues, because I’ve worked with the BSDs and Darwin, Max OS X’s most immediate open-source ancestor, as to how it works, but I don’t know that for sure and Apple is making sure that I never will know.

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