February 25, 2009

Why I won't get a Mac

A lot of people I know use Macs. They carry their shiny Mac Book Pro like a badge of honor, a talisman which embodies the measure of their master-geekery. It is quite funny how unknowingly religious such an iconic piece of shiny technology can make these latter-day geeks, but without many exceptions they are all very religious about it. Many times I find myself being invited to their Church of the Mac. I suppose they wish to save me from the evils Microsoft and protect me from the effort it takes to run an open source OS such as Ubuntu or Fedora. But I'm not interested. I believe in the seperation of Church and Tech.

What I find particularly interesting about this following, at least amongst the people I know, is that they are most big FOSS (Free and open source software) supporters. I ask them why not use an open source solution to their OS needs? Linux afterall is Unix based (like Mac's OS) and it's FOSS!!! But apperantly these master craftsmen, these warriors against the Big Corporation Microsoft find that using Linux distribustions to be a bit taxing on their patience. And apperantly, similar to Microsoft's Windows, Mac's OS is made to be a bit more user friendly.

What is the usual hold-up for using a FOSS operating system? In my experience it's been hardware support. This is getting better with every kernel release and distro update, but admittedly getting Linux to work with your particular hardware configuration can leave you a bit befuzzled. I happen to enjoy tinkering when I have the time, but I do realize the turn-off it can be when you just can't seem to get your wireless card to connect to the Internet of all things.

But Apple takes the fuss all out of that. They've got their proprietary, Unix-based OS that is very much like it's distant cousin's in the Linux world, but one HUGE caveat: Apple manufactures their own pricey hardware. In fact, if you read the EULA (you do read those from time to time right?) for your favorite Mac OS you'll see in plain text that it is an infraction of the Mac OS license agreement to run the OS on any other hardware than that provided by the manufacturer. Now I understand that Apple has found a niche market, but this wreaks of non-compete, monopoly-esque, the kind of stuff Microsoft get's taken to court for all time business. (Jeff Atwood, of codinghorror.com fame, compares it to the dongles of old.)

Sure Microsoft's dominance in many areas has led to product stagnation and other negative side affects, but you can take their products and run them on pretty much any hardware, manufactured by any company and it's fine. At what point of company growth will Apple no longer be able to get away with this. I'm glad their are companies like Psystar that are trying to keep Apple honest, but even they seem to be on the losing side.

So in the end, I don't see Apple as a Microsoft competitor, but more of an equal to them in their philosophies and business model. Sure they're competing with Microsoft, but only in a niche market. But they resemble that competitor more than their proponents want to admit.

For now I'll keep tinkering with Ubuntu and using Windows as deemed necessary.
Until next time


Erik said...

I'm no zealot, but I did just purchase my first mac and I love it, even more than I loved my Toshiba laptop running Vista (yes I love Vista). You'll never hear me say OSX is better than Windows or Linux but they are just tools in my toolbox, each with their uses. FOSS is great but there's nothing inherently BETTER about software that is free as in speech. Linux has it's little annoyances just like OSX and Windows. It's great that Apple charges more for a premium product where you can have your unix cake and eat your hardware icing too, and they've definitely found a market of people who are willing to pay for a different experience. It's also great that the linux universe has thousands of devs using their time and skills to craft awesome software we can use with no strings attached, except maybe having to pop open the instruction manual now and then.

One place where free software is dominant is the server side, and that's because the configuration options lend themselves more to that type of environment just like windows is more suited to the environment of grandma emailing pictures of her grandkids or OSX is more suited to giving a unix experience and having a chassis machined out of a solid block of sexy aluminum.

We are pretty fortunate as elite computer users to be able to pick which operating system(s) we run at home because we have the time and skills to track down that little bug stopping us from burning cds or getting on wireless in ubuntu.

I say try all the operating systems, free and otherwise, and use what you like from all of them. Every day I use OSX for web browsing/mail/content creation and use my windows vm to program and do content management tasks and log in to a few linux boxes to handle server tasks. I'll even often use an SSH tunnel through a linux box to a remote desktop session on a windows box, a harmonious example of multisource love. That's right, I just invented a new word called multisource.

bubba said...

I won't buy a Max for the same reason I never bought anything from other proprietary manufacturers (like Radio Shack).

I guess it's like people who spend $100+ for a pair of shoes or $50k for a car. They do it for the quality and at least a little for the prestige.

I still think it's funny that people love Unix and think it's better than other os's - it should be a whole lot better than the others, especially since it's 40 years old. But some of the cryptic commands and syntax really bug me. GREP is really dumb statement name, and the CHMOD command reminds of the crap you have to do to build a file on an IBM mainframe (i.e. it seems very antiquated).

But, I'm sure you can find or create commands with better names and syntax and use those.

Having just crapped all over Unix, I'd still like to try Ubuntu and learn Unix. I'm sure once you learn it, it's easy to do stuff.

I still don't like VI though. Qedit and Speededit seem better to me.

wisd0m said...

I think Mac are great looking machines and would make fine Linux boxes. This reason I stay away is price. Glad to here you're trying Ubuntu, if you need help message @OklahomaUbuntu on twitter.

Paul said...

If I notice my OS, then it's getting in my way and I don't like it. OS X gets in the way the least for me, followed by linux distros and xp. Vista, well, it is just a big road block.

So far, I only wish I could run OS X on all my desktop hardware, and that it had package management ala debian.

On servers, I like Ubuntu (never tried OS X server)

FOSS, I really don't care either way. I never have been bothered by paying for a tool if I like that tool better (paying as in beer, or speech)

I noticed my wife calls me far less with questions when she is using my mac book pro as opposed to when she is using my Vista, XP, or Ubuntu boxes. She doesn't have a tech bone in her body.

lifewithryan said...

I've used linux since '95 (built my first slackware box. I never looked back (except when I had to use windows for work -- even then I had a machine next to me running linux). After brief stints with redhat derivatives I found Debian and used that soley, both at home and eventually at work when I found myself working for a company that allowed me to run my pick of OS.

I only just switched to Mac this fall and it was a _very_ hard decision (and its only at work). The main driver for this switch however, was in-fact the other thorn in your side, "flash" -- trust me nobody hates it more than I but found myself having to learn and support it. There's just no reliable way to support flash with linux and I wasn't willing to try wine or virtual box to just do that.

A Mac seemed to provide me with enough of the linux/bsd world to keep me familiar and happy, and it wasn't the Windows that I've come to hate as much as Flash.

I think its nuts Apple wants as much control as they do have, however, I think they are a better product for it.

Having said all that, in light of Steve Jobs' recent comments I find myself agreeing whole heartedly with his decision save for one thing:

Go ahead and support flash, when the apps come out that just suck, then shame on the developer for choosing a poor technology for writing the app in. If enough developers get tired of having to wait to take advantage of features, (which is what Steves "main beef" was), then they'll get tired of it, and switch to native development.

Anyway I'm off on a tangent...I miss my ubuntu, but I do have that running in a virtual box on my mac :)