I am sure that you have had it happen to you -- your friend
sends you an e-mail written in a panicky frenzy -- I've been
hit! More often than not, you already knew that, because the
previous e-mail from that address was obviously not something
which would have been purposefully sent. You know that your
friend just got hit with the latest Windows virus, but you
waver between sympathy and frustration.
If you've worked with so-called personal computers for any length
of time, you'll have gotten the taste of the freezing, the
crashing, the insecurity, the infections and the frustration.
Some will know that my home computers have been using Linux
since shortly after having first tried Windows in the early
90s. Linux does not suffer from many of the problems that
the average PC user suffers with: it rarely crashes, rarely
freezes, it is not prone to viruses, is rather inexpensive, and
offers configuration choices that stagger the imagination.
Linux is also more of a technical adventure than the average
kid wants, if they just need to get their homework typed in.
So, when the University sold off the Apple iBooks at the end
of the summer, I picked one up. This is something the kids
can use and I didn't need to spend a great deal of time explaining
it to them. I went from Mac hater, to Mac tolerant; I didn't
particularly care about the infatuations of a half-crazed Mac
world, but was growing quite content with ignoring the kids'
computer until that fateful day.
I was torn from my complacency when my nephew, who knows just
enough about computers to make him dangerous, started messing
with the configuration of the iBook, and got it into a state
where everything required a password -- only, he couldn't remember
what he had set the password to! So, the cleanness of the
Apple install worked against me -- reinstalling the operating
system on a Mac, does not automatically obliterate your
configurations, as it often does on some other systems. I resigned
myself to the fact that I would need to wipe it all out and
reinstall from scratch. It was Fall of 2001 and Apple had just
released a complete remake of their operating system, which
they are calling OS X.
The scary part about installing software on the Macintosh is
that is so seductive. Whereas, Windows never seems to do
what I want, and whereas Linux does usually give me the
opportunity to get it right, installation is rarely as trivial
as the Mac. The Mac install involved none of the searches
for drivers that are often characteristic of Windows and Linux
installs -- by the end of the CD run, it asked a few questions
about my connection to the Internet and presto, everything just
worked. And, as it turned out, I was able to gracefully recover
the files that had been lost in my nephew's failed experiment.
Ok, I was getting farther and farther from hating the Mac.
Much can be said about the elegant beauty of the OS X Aqua user
interface -- it is in fact, stunning. The reputation that
everything is easier on a Mac may be close to the truth. But,
it wasn't until I had delved into the underpinnings of the new
operating system that I became satisfied that this software
indeed addresses my interest in a computer that doesn't crash,
and takes seriously people's need for security when connected
to the Internet.
The OS X system under the covers, resembles Linux in many ways
and offers many of that system's advantages. Yet, it improves
slightly on that system's security model by removing access to
the root user. For an end user who doesn't want to know much
about system configuration, Apple ensures that the default
settings are as secure as they can be. It seems very likely
that we will see on OS X, nothing of the magnitude, nor of the
nature of the problems that have become so prevalent in the Windows
world -- it will
be more difficult for virus writers to ply their nasty trade,
It had been a year, of Code Red, Nimda, and others. Was nothing
going to restore sanity to this industry? Although, Linux does
not have these kinds of problems, it has made modest inroads
on the desks of computer neophytes. Apple's OS X, on the other
hand, is a sharp answer to those that might find Linux a little
too gritty -- not only is it conceptually clean and easy, it
is not vulnerable to these ubiquitous virii and security problems
which plague Windows. Though OS X is more functional than
Windows XP Professional -- it manages to be so at less than
half the price.
For the curious, additional thoughts and background which
motivated our recent migration to Apple have been documented