Down But Not Out

Mac OS X Rapidly Catching on with *nix Geeks

Dirk Pilat - 2002.09.27


I can almost hear you groan, "Oh my (insert personal choice of supernatural being in here)! It's that annoying person living in New Zealand again!"

Yep, sorry. It's me again. Not to grovel or complain or anything, but, au contraire, report on an interesting trend that was already noticeable about 12 months ago, and since then has developed into an unstoppable tsunami.

What am I talking about? The transformation of OS X into the preferred toy for alpha-geeks, of course. You see, I always aspired Jolt Colato be an alpha geek: It's not so much the dress code or the Jolt Cola, but the fact that you can write your own device drivers, debug Python-code, write Java applets, get invited to O'Reilly conferences, and have incredibly good karma on Slashdot.

The only problem I have is that I can't program. Not one dot. Apart from Sinclair BASIC, that is. So, without the credentials, I at least want to have the hardware. So I got myself my first beige PC, learned how to us OpenBSD (well, let's say I am getting there), and started to fumble around with the BSD-underpinnings of OS X.

And I am not alone, because Apple hardware seems to be getting the flavour of the day in the alpha geek world:

As Ian Betteridge, the editor of MacUser UK, predicted, X's BSD core makes it incredibly seductive for a hard-core Unix/Linux/*BSD user to buy hardware that actually works and for which he/she doesn't have to write the device drivers. Look at Moshe Bar's article on on switching from a Linux Laptop to a TiBook, the ensuing comments by the titans of geekdom, Hemos and Cdr. Taco from Slashdot and the 985 replies (and counting) to that story (pretty good even for Slashdot).

It is definitely hip again to have one of those cool Apple toys. The reasons are obvious: Not only does the hardware work out of the box, but it has a great GUI, runs MS's industry-standard software (which does not mean that it's a particularly good standard), and also runs every geek toy you wish, so you're not without XWindows, Pine, Vi, Emacs, etc.

For goodness sake, it comes with a Python compiler! I am pretty sure that Microsoft does not include a C and Python Compiler with XP.

So, although there is still plenty of controversy around Mac OS X, Apple seems to have made the right choice by using NeXTstep and BSD Unix as the foundation for OS X.

I don't know if BeOS would have attracted the same amount of interest from the nerd community, and it would certainly not have had the same range of compatibility to the *nix set of tools.

Well done, Steve. LEM

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