OS X really does not suck

The latest edition of Linux Format includes an article by its Deputy Editor, Paul Hudson, about how much he hates the Mac’s operating system. LXF produces all its content on Macs (in fact, I’ve even seen screenshots of the Mac version of Mozilla in the magazine), using the normal Mac graphics software like Photoshop and InDesign. He claims that it sucks. Most of the time I use a computer, it’s a Mac. (My laptop runs Linux.) I beg to differ on the OS.

Yeah, it’s pretty, and yeah, it’s easy, but that’s it. My Mac crashes at least once a day, with a full system lock-up where I have to reboot. Yes, this is an OS [operating system] built on one of the most stable bases out there, and Apple manages to make it crash.

Well, I’ve had quite a few individual programs crash on me, but I can’t remember having a full system lock-up since I’ve bought my Mac. I’ve had quite a few in the time I’ve been using Linux, including two (both on Mandrake Linux v9.2) where I had to switch the machine off during that release’s interminable swaps. (I wrote a letter to Linux Magazine mentioning the said problem with Mandrake - or Mandreck as I call it; it has a notorious history of reliability problems - and the person who replied to me basically told me he’d never seen it. But it exists. I’ve seen it on my computer.) It’s not the only system which crashes. My laptop (which runs SuSE Linux 9.1) often seizes up during shutdown (usually when it comes to shutting down the sound-card driver) and I’ve seen some versions of Linux crash while booting.

I use version 10.3 (Panther). What version are you using? Early versions were known to be less reliable than Panther.

I don’t use a tablet and don’t know if or when I’m using multi-threading, so I can’t comment on the next sentence.

If you try to view a large page in Safari, the whole browser locks up while it loads, leaving you with an annoying little spinning beachball icon.

That’s rich - a Linux fan whining about bad Mac web browsers! The Mac has a choice of no less than six web browsers (Internet Explorer doesn’t count): Safari, Opera, OmniWeb, Mozilla, Firefox and Camino. Safari has its problems, but if you don’t like it, you can try one of the others. (All except OmniWeb are free.)

Linux has Mozilla, Firefox, Galeon, Epiphany, Opera and Konqueror. That’s still six, but three of these are Mozilla derivates, and they are all hamstrung by the chronic lack of decent fonts in just about every Linux distribution. My Movable Type composition screen displays wrong in Linux Mozilla: the action menu runs down the left hand side of the screen, but one of the labels is too wide for its box. Konqueror has a problem with it too: the buttons used for inserting HTML tags (like hypertext links) do not work properly in Konqueror (which is based on the same HTML rendering engine as Safari, in which they at least don’t pretend to - they just don’t appear). Only Red Hat ever seriously tacked Linux’s bad and plain ugly font problem, but even there, some sites don’t display well in that distribution’s default Serif font (particularly at smaller sizes).

Even something like MIME types manages to be a nightmare. On my system, a JPEG file with a .JPG extension loads in Preview, but a JPEG with no extension loads in Photoshop, Yes, you can tweak the options to try to bring the OS into line, but surely a JPEG file should load in the same app, no matter what.

I just tried loading an image on my hard drive in Preview after changing its extension several times. It loaded with the extension .jpg, .jpeg, one of these in capitals, no extension, and an extension of several random letters with a couple of semicolons in there. The same image appeared each time. What version of Preview are you using, Paul?

So, the next time you hear a Unix geek telling you how great OS X is, I suggest you politely tell them that OS X is no more BSD than Windows is.

Well, both OS X and Windows are known to have some BSD (a version of Unix developed at the University of California at Berkeley) borrowings, but OS X borrows the Unixy bits - it’s got most or all of the trappings of a Unix operating system. The main difference between OS X and Linux or Solaris is the graphical user interface. OS X uses its own; Linux and Solaris use the X Window system. The thing Unix is most famous for is its stability, and OS X Panther is the most stable operating system I’ve ever used. (And to be honest, OS X could support the X Window system much better than it does.)

I suspect this piece is just the whining of someone who just wishes he was using his favourite OS - it looks like he doesn’t like OS X because it’s not Linux. I think Linux has a long way to go before it reaches the usability, visual appeal and coherence of OS X.

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