Show Stoppers, OS X vs. BSD & Gnu-Linux

I hate how Free OS critics attempt to undermine projects by mentioning that little things here and there don’t work or configure easily on BSDs or Gnu-Linux distros as they do on Windows or OS X (yes, I know what it’s based on). They list them as “show stoppers” as in they stop users from taking up these other OSes. In response, I’ve compiled a small list of OS X failures. Keep in mind, this is not comprehensive at all, but just to make a point.

  • Hardware: Intel Core Duo MacBook Pro. It runs rather fast and not as hot now that the mother board was replaced.

I’ve been using Apple’s proprietary OS X for a while, years. Specifically, I’m using OS X on this laptop because I needed something somewhat reliable for university but I didn’t have time to install or wait for a Free Software alternative mid-through the school year. Anyway, connecting via Airport Extreme on OS X is about as reliable as betting on any one side in a coin toss. I just spent about 15 minutes trying to connect to my router that’s configured not to broadcast its SSID but uses no other security measures. It’s been worse with the previous Panther release and my old iBook, when updates to Airport Extreme left me with an unusable and extremely slow connection for at least a week. And after this sort of performance, Broadcom (iBook Airport Extreme) saw/sees it fit to keep their driver’s source and documentation secret? Valuable trade secret … yeah right.

Moving on, I sometimes use my MacBook as an alarm clock by setting a wakeup time under the Energy Saver settings/schedule and selecting a music file to be played upon start-up (under Accounts). The effect is that iTunes starts to play on start-up. The problem is that my laptop wakes me up even after I deactivate the settings the night before. Changes don’t take immediately, and they don’t take at all if I don’t spend “some” time on my computer after making the change. This is especially annoying when I’ve used this utility for Friday morning, deactivated the settings on Friday night, then woken up with music blaring at 6 or 7 am on Saturday morning. (I like to sleep-in on Saturdays as I don’t work them).

Don’t ask me why but OS X Tiger also crashes when I mount my camera on the right side USB, as it has with the Picasa iPhoto plugin. Yeah, blame it entirely on the Picasa plug-in and USB/camera drivers, but buggy user software and drivers should NOT crash a UNIX-like OS, even with a monolithic kernel. To add to the hassle and after recovering from the Picasa associated crash, the Disk Utility reported a minor error that needed repairing, so I had to reboot via the appropriate CD to fix the errors. Prior to this and to be extra sure this was not a hardware associated problem, I rebooted from the Apple Test CD (same CD but requiring a separate boot) and ran the long test multiple times. A pain and lengthy, nonetheless.

I don’t mean to disparage OS X. It’s certainly getting better and more reliable, and more so than my experiences with Windows. Even so, this list could go on, but why bother when it’s obvious that any business model –be it Open Source (such as OS X) or proprietary– does not necessarily create a better user experience than Libre (Free) software projects. Yes, I know this is a over simplification and that the line between Libre and proprietary software is blurred and thus polluted –thanks to the Open Source movement. For instance, FreeBSD could now be called Open Source now that it’s given into incorporating closed wireless support into the kernel (blobs and drivers), while OpenBSD effectively takes Stallman’s stance –with their “release documentation initiative” and their refusal to incorporate proprietary binaries– while hating everything else for which the man stands. As surely deduced, there are differences –as on firmware where OpenBSD couldn’t be bothered to develop or support Libre firmware, while Stallman supports this.

In the end, the reason proprietary software “sucks” is because it undermines the creation of better support (and user experience) for closed hardware, unless the associated company sees it fit, as in financially viable. On the other hand, the Free Software movement can continue to develop software (for hardware) long after the manufacturer has lost interest in supporting “its” hardware and despite it being financially unsound. (I haven’t even gotten into the security issues associated with proprietary software.) Libre software only needs inertia (in the way of public interest), some degree of programming competence, as well as hardware documentation, and transparency –in as far as source code– helps too.

Maurice Cepeda

This is licensed under the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons License. All brands mentioned are properties of their respective owners. By reading this article, the reader forgoes any accountability of the writer. The reading of this article implies acceptance of the above stipulations. The author requires attribution –by full name and URL– and notification of republications.


One thought on “Show Stoppers, OS X vs. BSD & Gnu-Linux

  1. Pingback: MacBook Pros Run AMD!!! « Le Blog de Maurice

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