Mercury News columnist: ‘best way for average person to run Unix is Mac OS X’ not Linux

“It looks like I’m going to have to reconsider something I’d been taking for granted — that Linux on the desktop, and especially the laptop, was a non-starter in the operating systems race. While I wasn’t paying sufficient attention, the proverbial tortoise has been playing some serious catch-up,” Dan Gillmor writes for The Mercury News. “One reason I’m rethinking this long-held conviction is in my lap. I’m writing this column on a nearly 4-year-old IBM ThinkPad, a computer that was a marvel of technology in its time but is now fairly old stuff. Linux has rejuvenated this machine.”

Gillmor then writes about his experiences with Xandros.

Gillmor writes, “I don’t want to overstate the situation. I still think the best way for an average person to run Unix, the super-sturdy operating system on which Linux is based, on a personal computer is to buy a Macintosh from Apple. OS X has many capabilities that even the best versions of Linux can’t match so far.”

“Am I ready to ditch my Mac and use Linux only? No. Linux may be just fine for a second desktop system at home. But for corporate road-warriors it’s still not quite ready…,” Gillmor concludes.

Full article here.


  1. The competition for the “best” OS will be good for consumers. Even Microsoft has apparently recognized that it needs to start from scratch (i.e. Longhorn). I would expect to see significant improvements in software over the next few years as the rivalries heat up. Question is how many current Windows users will switch to a Linux or to Apple�s OS?

  2. Everybody I know that has switched to Mac lately (including me) has switched not from Windows to OS X but rather from Linux to OS X.

    I started using Linux in ’99, with a Debian distribution; it was a pain in the ass for desktop (rather than server) use in ’99 and is just a little bit prettier pain in the ass today. I had the bright idea of turning one of the spare PC boxes at work into a Linux fileserver, used Mandrake 9.2, spent two hours getting X to start up at the right resolution, and never could get Samba properly configured. I don’t pretend to be a UNIX expert; instead I had a friend who IS one try it. After a couple of hours we got bored, restored the machine to Windows XP booting, and walked a block to the bar.

    Doing the same thing on the old iMac at home took about 5 minutes, with there never being any hardware issues to deal with in the first place.

  3. I second OJ’s observations,

    Simply put, OS X is a fantastic Unix development platform!

    I have been using SGI’s and Linux boxes for number crunching and have recently started using my AlBook with BBEdit for script writing, debugging, and submitting jobs to our Linux cluster.

    While Linux boxes have great price/performance ratios, they are a pain-in-the-a** to configure and to work with. My Unix friends who previously dismissed the Mac have taken notice and are starting purchase Mac lap tops.

    The combination of Unix, M$ productivity apps, integration with unix and M$ networks, and decent graphics performance for scientific visualization make OS X an unbeatable combination.

  4. Linux -> OS X here, too… but it wasn’t JUST because of the software. In 2001, I was looking for a replacement for a 1995-vintage, ‘486, 640×480 (but 16-bit color, w00t!) laptop I’d been running Linux on. I was faced with either getting another PC laptop, running Linux, and getting VMware or something for when I needed access to “big-name commercial applications,” or getting an iBook with OS X. The iBook had FireWire and a DVD-ROM drive, and name-brand PC laptops with those sorts of features were $500 more.

    Yeah. I bought a Mac because PC’s were too expensive. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

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