Apple’s OS X is NOT linux!

Because of all the recent news on Valve’s linux and OS X support for Steam and Source, I keep reading that same old misinformation again. So I repeat:

Apple’s OS X is NOT linux!

I’ve written a blog on the confusion of linux, UNIX and other OSes a while ago, but it seems another one is in order. So I will just repeat myself here:

I also see that with regards to MacOS a lot. People seem to think that it is based on linux. Which it isn’t. MacOS has its own kernel, called XNU. The rest of the OS is also not entirely like a linux distribution. Namely, where linux distributions generally are based on the FSF GNU software distribution for the ‘world’, MacOS stems from Darwin, which in turn is based on BSD, and only certain parts are taken from the GNU world (such as the GNU Compiler Suite).

The differences are very small, the software mostly looks the same from the outside, but the origins of Darwin and BSD are different, as is the licensing (obviously). I find it a bit strange that linux seems to have become equivalent to any Unix-like OS, in the minds of a lot of people.

So, linux distributions are named after their kernel, which is the linux kernel. Since OS X does not use this kernel, but its own XNU kernel (from the Darwin project, which is built upon earlier work done by NeXT, the company that Steve Jobs started when he left Apple), that is already a glaring dissimilarity. Another major feature of most linux distributions is that they mainly depend on GNU code (under the GPL license), and the correct way to refer to a linux-based OS as a whole is to refer to it as GNU/linux (yes I’m actually citing Stallman here!). Now, since OS X is mainly based on BSD code (taken from the FreeBSD and NetBSD projects), that is a second glaring dissimilarity. If anything, OS X would be called something like BSD/Darwin/XNU, not GNU/linux.

Please people, try to get it right sometime! I know the linux community is ignorant, but you’re all about openness and freedom of information, right? Well, this information is open and free, and it’s right out there. All you have to do is look! OS X is in no way part of your imaginary linux success story, so don’t spread FUD by claiming otherwise! Wasn’t FUD the reason why you people hate Microsoft, and the reason why you use linux in the first place? (which would be the same reason you accuse Windows users of: you use it because you don’t know anything else, and never bothered to look).

Oh, and by the way:

The ‘Open’ in OpenGL does not refer to open source either (it refers to ‘Open Standard’, which is not quite the same)! Most implementations of OpenGL are closed source, and the OpenGL name is trademarked. Which is why the main open source implementation of OpenGL is called MesaGL, not OpenGL (MesaGL is not licensed to use the OpenGL trademark).

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75 Responses to Apple’s OS X is NOT linux!

  1. RationalUser says:

    Nice to see good info. about this on the internet. It’s amazing how many people think that OS X is Linux. People wanting to try a free alternative to OS X are seriously mistaken when they jump into the world of Linux distros. The only three OSes off the top of my head that may be interesting to users of OS X, and who like to tinker with OSes, are FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and PC-BSD (this last one is perhaps the closest; they advertise as user-friendly but people’s mileage may vary – I’ve gotten it to run in VirtualBox on my Macs but it’s quite slow at times, and BlueTooth/wireless support is still nonexistent).

    • Scali says:

      PC-BSD is user-friendlier, not user-friendly in general 🙂
      I would say that OS X and Windows are in a league of their own.
      Their userfriendliness is a core part of the whole design.
      Anything else is basically a commandline/text-oriented OS with a thin GUI layer on top of it as an afterthought. In many cases the GUI just sends commands to a shell in the background, and parses the output back. A delicate balancing act, which can (and will) easily fall apart at the slightest sight of trouble.
      But as they say, in the land of the blind…

      • Klimax says:

        Like Windows Server 2012?


      • Scali says:

        No, nothing like that at all.

      • Klimax says:

        I think some things did change:
        “Server Manager provides a convenient GUI, but behind the scenes, PowerShell commands are constructed and executed. The commands can also be copied, edited, and executed directly in PowerShell.”

        That’s why I wrote Server 2012. Similar thing BTW is present in SQL Management Studio, which constructs query based upon your input in gui and executes it and then presents results. (Including configuration.)
        However there is a difference from rest you described – it knows how to cope with errors…

      • Scali says:

        Thing is, PowerShell is a commandline interface on top of a programming framework. That’s pretty much the opposite of what a lot of *nix tools are doing: wrapping commandline tools into function calls (even Git does that, part of the reason why Git tools are horribly unstable in Windows… they need to fire off instances of Git within a bash environment).

      • Klimax says:

        Ok. That way it’s not same. Understood.

        Must say it’s quite funny way to do work. Seems more like WTF way of doing things and much less efficent. At least TortoiseGit can do some commands through libgit2 (similar to libsvn). Seems that it’s currently x86 only… 😦 Also config has to be changed in advanced->use libgit2)

      • Scali says:

        I haven’t used Git in about 2 years I think. At the time, it was horribly slow and unreliable. So I moved to Hg instead. In terms of functionality it is pretty much on par with Git, but the tools are much faster, easier to use, and very reliable on Windows. So I see no reason to ever use Git again. It just seems to be an overhyped product, mainly riding on Torvalds’ popularity. I can recommend Hg to anyone.

      • Klimax says:

        I watch quite a few projects so I get to use in simple ways CVS, SVN, Git, HG, Bazaar, Fossil, Darcs. (last two have only cmd.) For my own code I use svn. (it’s simple)

        As for git, it got better (thanks to group of volunteers in msysgit).

      • Scali says:

        Yea, I used SVN for years, and still do for older projects. As long as I’m the only one working on them, SVN is simple but effective. So I never bothered to convert various older projects to Hg.

      • RationalUser says:

        Agreed, I’ve had some strange things happen in VirtualBox to my installs of PC-BSD, Linux Mint Debian Edition, and OpenSUSE: in some cases, quite literally, the GUI would start falling apart, with bits of taskbar disappearing, the screen going black, menus popping up only after I’ve clicked three or four times on a button…..very strange – and I’ve installed the supposedly “quality” distros. Makes me wonder about the other 150 or so distros and concoctions.

      • Scali says:

        Well, I wasn’t literally talking about the desktop falling apart… But here’s an example of what I encountered a few years ago:
        I have a network printer, an HP Color Laserjet 4500. In Ubuntu, the GUI tools correctly detected the printer over the network, and installed drivers. However, for some reason they didn’t enable colour. Now, there was NO way to change this from the GUI. Not during installation, and not afterwards. The colour-option simply wasn’t showing in any of the configuration dialogs, because as far as the GUI was concerned, it was not a colour printer, since it was never installed as such.
        The only way to fix that would be to manually change some config textfiles.
        In Windows this wouldn’t happen, because the dialogs are part of the driver itself. They don’t just translate some text file into some generic forms.

        Ironically enough, in FreeBSD the same printer installed as colour without a problem from the GUI. And that is with mostly the same software (Gnome, CUPS etc).

      • RationalUser says:

        That’s similar to my experience with the GUI settings for the Airport router from Apple – but when running it in Linux. The GUI Airport tools in Linux haven’t been updated since 2003 – half of the configuration options that I can see on the Windows or OS X side are missing in the GUI tools for that model of router, as available under Linux – and I’m certainly no expert to start fiddling around with (or creating) text configuration files to control all settings for the Airport under Linux – not worth the hassle in my opinion.

      • RationalUser says:

        The Airport, for those wondering, can’t be tweaked via an html page in a web browser (it has its own control panel for Windows and OS X only), further limiting the ways it can be controlled under Linux. I guess the moral of this story is: choose hardware carefully if running an OS other than Windows or OS X.

  2. Justin says:

    Hello there. I have been using Linux for my home computer since about 1998 and used BSD prior to that. I am one for strict definitions for terminology when discussing highly technical subjects and have more then once had to correct this common misconception as well. Further I agree with you, this conflating of Linux, a clone of UNIX with UNIX itself is annoying.

  3. gescom says:

    “Apple’s OS X is NOT linux!”

    This is from Steve Jobs repeating all over again how OSx has UNIX roots. UNIX here, UNIX there.
    There you go ->
    Unix =+- LInux (in People’s eyes)

    • Scali says:

      Well yes… Thing is, Steve Jobs is perfectly correct when he says OS X has UNIX roots.
      It’s just rather sad that a lot of people don’t know the difference between linux and UNIX.
      Especially if they want to use OS X as an example of how popular/userfriendly/etc linux is.

  4. MacOS9 says:

    As far as I know, Linux takes bits and pieces of Unix, does its own home-brew thing, and mixes and matches everything; rather, mashes things up. There are, therefore, myriads of Linux distros and myriads of tweaks that – unfortunately – are not very user friendly at all. While Unix is not as user friendly as the GUI that Apple and Microsoft work hard at – at least it’s a unified platform – in contrast to the madness of Linux. Scali can correct me on this if I’m wrong – but as far as I know there’s only one variety of Unix (no matter the name, OpenBSD, FreeBSD, etc.). (Sorry for posting under two names; RationalUser pops up on my laptop, and MacOS9 on my desktop computer.)

    • Scali says:

      Well, UNIX started out as a single operating system, developed by AT&T. The thing was, this was in the pre-Microsoft era, and software was not considered to be worth anything. You bought the hardware, and software was just included as part of the deal.
      So UNIX was distributed complete with source code.
      As a result, various people started modifying the source code. The most popular of these modified versions of UNIX is the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD), maintained by the university of California (in Berkeley).
      Various other system vendors also used this source code to sell UNIX-compatible OSes with their own systems.
      So the UNIX family tree became larger and larger over time.

      However, at some point, AT&T discovered the value of UNIX itself, and decided that although they had been distributing the source code, they would not allow third parties to distribute it anymore (the source code never came with any kind of official license, so it was not quite what we’ve come to know as ‘open source’ software today, and AT&T still had the full copyright on it).

      AT&T then decided to sue over the BSD software. However, since the software had become so widespread, and UNIX had become so important in the computing world, the court decided that it was not an option to completely close down UNIX, and give AT&T a monopoly. So instead, the decision was made that a part of the UNIX/BSD code would remain in the public domain. This eventually resulted in the BSD-lite distribution, which contained only the code that was no longer under any AT&T copyrights or patents. This code was distributed under what we now know as the BSD license. From that starting point, various projects focused on ‘filling in the blanks’ with newly written BSD-licensed code, so that a full UNIX-compatible open source system was available once again.

      Richard M. Stallman however had a slightly different view. When AT&T started claiming their copyrights and closing their source code in the early 80s, RMS set up a project with the goal to completely reimplement UNIX, but with code that was open source, and a license that would keep it free and open at all times. This was the Gnu’s Not Unix project, and this license was the GPL.

      The GNU project would churn out various tools which could replace UNIX tools, the most well-known probably being the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC). There was one hurdle that the GNU project could never quite take, and that was to produce a working kernel, so that they had an entire OS. They had been working on the Herd kernel project for years, but never managed to reach a state of maturity that was good enough for a public release. Even today the project still exists, and it is still being developed, but it is not quite mature enough yet.

      This is where linux comes in. Linus Torvalds was working with a 16-bit UNIX-like OS designed for educational purposes, by Andrew S. Tanenbaum, known as MINIX. Tanenbaum was not interested in implementing a 32-bit kernel, because he didn’t think it would add much educational value. So Linus decided to write such a kernel himself. Initially just as a replacement for the MINIX kernel. But this kernel, being licensed under GPL as well, was the missing link for the GNU project, so it was quickly combined with the rest of the GNU project to form GNU/linux, a complete GPL-licensed UNIX-like OS.

      So that is the biggest difference between UNIX and linux: linux does not have a direct bloodline with the original UNIX. It does not contain any code from UNIX whatsoever. The OS does however implement mostly the same APIs and general environment, so they are very similar in use, and most code can be ported from one to the other in a trivial way.

      OS X is based on BSD-code, so it has a direct line to UNIX. AT&T has long stopped developing computer hardware and UNIX however, so these days UNIX is merely a trademark. If an OS meets certain standards, it can be certified to carry the UNIX trademark. Neither linux distributions nor any of the open source BSD flavours have the right to carry the UNIX trademark, as far as I know, but OS X is an officially certified Open Brand UNIX 03.

  5. RationalUser says:

    Thanks for the history on UNIX, always enjoy reading this stuff. Speaking of Mac and Windows user-friendliness, here’s a response I found on the internet a few days ago to a novice’s question, the question being how do you get sound working in Linux on a Mac. Somehow I don’t think the following response was of much use; if anything the novice will run back to Windows or OS X:

    “I guess linux can’t install the sound driver for the Mac Hardware. Try updating the drivers for the kernel you got installed. With this:
    sudo urpmi kernel-tmb-desktop-latest
    then once you boot with GRUB there will be a new Kernel Entry,
    gksu gedit /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base.conf
    Then put this in the text editor:
    options snd-hda-intel model=auto
    options snd-hda-intel model=mbp5
    options snd-hda-intel model=mbp55
    options snd-hda-intel model=imac27
    Try that and see? Try one at a time, and see if you can get it running.”

    • Scali says:

      Yes, I had a similar experience with FreeBSD the other day. I tried to use my three-year-old FreeBSD 8.0-RELEASE installation on a new motherboard, since my old motherboard had died. The new motherboard had a pretty common Realtek Gbit NIC, but apparently it reported a hardware revision that was too new for the Realtek driver compiled into the kernel.

      So I first had to compile a new kernel that did NOT include the Realtek driver, else I could not load an alternative driver as a module. Then I had to try and build a new Realtek driver against my old kernel source. But it seems the code provided by Realtek was outdated as well. It still did not recognize my chip. So I tried modifying the code somewhat. I did manage to get the card detected, and to get the proper device to show up, but I never got it to work. It always reported ‘link down’.
      So I think the only way I can get it to work is if I upgrade my entire OS(!).

      In Windows however it was dead simple: just use the binary driver included on the motherboard CD (or download the latest from the web), and install it.

      I wish these alternative OSes would focus more on modularity and binary compatibility like that. It makes things a lot easier for end-users if they can just download a driver and go, without having to worry about kernel versions, building drivers from source, manually loading modules etc. Having source code should not be an excuse for not having a proper user-friendly way of managing drivers. Rebuilding kernels and drivers, or even upgrading the whole OS just to get a common NIC working is just not my idea of a good system.

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  7. Buzzy Clone says:

    More different than alike than even Microsoft….

    Linux = Open, Super rich in functionality, customization, open to choose hardware, not as pretty, more work in some cases but getting a lot easier, especially new install, more diy own your own data future.
    OS x = Closed, dumbed down, little to know customization, not open to choose hardware, pretty, not always as easy as you are led to believe but easier because not as much available, expensive, and most important…will control all of your data in the cloud eventually if there is not a significant public outcry (which I do not see) .

    I know which one I will choose whenever I can and not let a little extra work rule who controls my data.

    • MacOS9 says:

      Linux is indeed open but I don’t know how much that’s really worth anything if it doesn’t gain greater market share.

      As far as someone else controlling your data, iCloud storage is optional in OS X (it can be disabled from within the system preferences). Microsoft most likely also has, or will have, some kind of “cloud” storage capability. Cross-platform cloud storage already exists in the form of DropBox, which is available for Linux too – and can be found in most repositories. Put differently, cloud storage (whatever the brand name) can always be easily disabled, or not installed at all.

      “Cloud” storage is a gimmicky term anyway – it’s been around for years and was commonly referred to as remote storage of files – obviously if the files are not on your computer, the risk is there that someone can look at them.

      If for some horrible reason Microsoft and Apple take away the option to disable remote/cloud storage – then I suppose I will (reluctantly) have to move to Linux Mint (this being the only somewhat decent linux distro in my opinion that actually – somewhat – behaves with my Macs since PC-BSD is not quite there yet) – but I hope that day never comes.

      I like using a proprietary OS. 🙂

      Anyway, there’s my two cents on the subject…look forward to hearing Scali’s views on the whole cloud thing.

      • Scali says:

        Microsoft has SkyDrive. And Google has Google Drive (formerly Google Docs). They are all similar to Dropbox in that they can synchronize a local folder with ‘the cloud’ (ugh).

        And yea, open standards are nice, but if 80-90% of the world use something else…

      • Buzzy Clone says:

        Whoever has the data has the control. Local IT people/homeusers have had it for better or worse for a little while now.
        Just the ability of a 3rd party to house data with security issues is not the bigger issue. I agree that Cloud is gimmicky and has a certain specific definition right now, but it has a bigger definition to those that see what freedoms it will take away, create less competition to those few currently controlling our computing with greater marketshare. Maybe a welcome change for those who do not like DIY, prefer renting to owning, want goverment and a few established businesses to tell them what they get and need at what price, and generally would not use computers if they did not have to. In my own opinion the definition is the moving your computing to a central off premise network of servers “not owned by you” that WILL control your data with some pseudo control given to you. IMO it is the equivalent of being mandated to take public transportation with ability to maybe choose the color and style of your chair and maybe some extra amenities like headphones and a pillow, or a desk to work on. Sure it’s more environmentally friendly, don’t have to hassle with repairs, let someone else do the driving at whatever the going rate is, keeps those crazies from driving. It is a parellel to what cloud computing is going to do to computing because the mandate will be in the profits that are reaped by big companies and not what’s best for the end user. There is no doubt where it is going and the freedoms you now enjoy with proprietary OS’s (that I have used almost exclusively for decades up until the last year) will no longer be as profitable and nothing to counteract it. With high bandwidth and greater profit for companies we are having our computing pulled back into the dumb terminal age in order control our lives through computing services rather than us using computers for ourselves. OS’s like windows and mac and clouds like S3 and Azure are in a transition stage of takeover (no more media center, windows home servers, high data live mesh syncing, buy once software and media). There is very few home and small business services that are being provided that have not already been developed or could be further developed inexpensively and ported over to a home pc/central storage server that would not perform better.
        Gov’t and Big business will be all too happy to pass laws that make what they’ll call the “wild west of the computing age” into something they can control allowing only certain federally regulated companies the ability to compute for you in order to keep you secure. I feel like the chicken that says the sky (or cloud) is falling. I do know how I sound, but I truly believe while the “cloud” can provide good service it will be the undoing of freedoms faster than we think (as fast as the internet changed things). Gone will be the days when computing could elevate the hardworking little guys to compete with the big guys since and innovation reigned – welcome back the days when IBM dictated things…the name just changed to Applesoft and we wait in line to support it…ironic.

    • chefpastry says:

      As MacOS9 pointed out, using cloud services are optional. You can even host your own services if you choose. You do not have to hand over your data to anyone you don’t want to. Therefore, your argument about others controlling your data are moot.

      In regards to your other criticisms of OS X, there are tons of customizations. If you can navigate your way around Linux, there’s no reason why you can’t do it in OS X. By the way, it should be “little to no”, not “little to know”. They mean very different things.

      I don’t understand what you mean by “not as much available”.

      The cost of the hardware can be a bit more expensive, but it also comes with support. I know of no Linux Stores where you can speak to Linux Geniuses. Some people need their hardware and software to work without having to tweak things and search on forums looking for help. These people are willing to pay a bit more for that.

  8. RationalUser says:

    Like I said, for now iCloud/SkyDrive/GoogleDrive are optional services; they can be disabled in the OS of choice. If such things become integrated and/or obligatory parts of the OSes, then yes – I guess we’ll all have to move to some version of an open-source OS. I do hope, however, that by that time – if it comes – some of the variants of BSD or Linux will actually be user-friendly (meaning that I don’t have to enter stuff at the command line prompt in the terminal, and that open-source video drivers actually behave well).

    In the meantime I’ll keep humming away with Snow Leopard on my Macs (a nice OS by the way that avoids the tabletization of iOS that’s being integrated into Lion, Mountain Lion; also seen in Windows 8). I usually run my computers for 5 to 10 yrs. anyway. Heck, I had my beige PowerMac from the mid 1990s running for 13 yrs. before I retired it: good, consistent times. 🙂

    Scali probably has a clearer view of where OSes are going in terms of the the traditional desktop metaphor and locally stored data, versus tablet/tile/smartphone interfaces and “cloud” stored info.

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  11. CHinA MiKe says:

    You’re a dumb cunt. Of course Apple got all is source code from GNU/Linux. To deny that means you are another one of those stupid Apple worshippers, i.e. brainwashed clones that deserve nothing better than death. I will be turning your name and info over to my Taliban friends. LONG LIVE AND LOVE ALAH!

  12. MacOS9 says:

    OS X is partly based on BSD, but not on Linux, with the possible exception of Safari whose WebKit rendering engine was “borrowed” from Konqueror (a free web browser available in KDE flavors of Linux). Contact Scali for more detailed info. on broader differences between OS X, BSD, and the jungle of partially-cooked-up distros that is Linux. I’m sure he’ll enjoy corresponding with you… :).

  13. Bojan says:

    How about you try to get it right and write Linux and not linux?

    • Scali says:

      Actually, the kernel image has always been called ‘linux’, not ‘Linux’, and that is on a case-sensitive filesystem. Likewise, on most FTP servers, including itself, the directory is also called ‘linux’, not ‘Linux’ ( does not work). I’m not sure when people started capitalizing Linux, but historically it does not seem to be not correct.

      • Pinaki Sekhar Gupta says:

        I’m extremely sorry to correct you that the address of the open kernel may contain the name ‘linux’ and not ‘Linux’, and internally the entire linux family (being case sensitive) relies on the name ‘linux’ not ‘Linux’, but the convention to spell the OS is ‘Linux’ not ‘linux’.
        As far as I know one can detect the os from the C/C++ preprocessor if the needs be.
        such as,
        #if !defined (__linux)
        # do___something___
        One can also detect UNIX as
        #if !defined (__unix)
        # so_on
        – – – – – – –
        that does not mean it has to be called ‘linux’ explicitely and no way ‘Linux’.
        Why don’t you call UNIX as unix? You can easily do that.
        Here is the link
        Now say why Wikipedia says ‘Linux’ not ‘linux’?
        Type in your blog ‘linux’ and see the spell check option.
        Conclusion:: If an OS internally spell its name started small-case then its not mandatory to spell the name the way it does internally.

      • Scali says:

        Why don’t you call UNIX as unix?

        Because it is officially trademarked as “UNIX”.

    • Pinaki Sekhar Gupta says:

      Yes you agree that the trademarked names are only used when we spell the name. Generally the name internally used by the OS is not used always. I don’t know whether linux has any ‘Cretified linux trademark’ or not, but I think it does not need to be a registered trademark certified by due to its open nature. I don’t know whether any such linux registration scheme exists or not.

      We all should always remember that linux is not UNIX, rather it is a ‘clone of UNIX’ as we’ve all been taught in school all over the world. linux is the re-invention of the UNIX wheel. Unlike BSD, they (linux) have their own pedigree. So they never want to become UNIX, they always say that they are based on a scientific ‘linux kernel’. So UNIX and linux may be cousins but not identical twins. People generally confuse linux with UNIX because linux follows the UNIX convention, consequently these two have a great similarity, but its not correct to address linux as UNIX or vice-versa.

      I’m a windows guy, not because I love windows but for the unofficial compulsion imposed by our software and game vendors that they only runs on windows especially Direct-X, Win32 and many other issues. Enterprises once designed softwares for windows will alyas be helpless if the are asked to port their programs for OS X or ubuntu.
      This makes us sticked to windows, keeping the growing list of programs for windows,
      making it popular in a monopolistic ‘no-advertisement cost’ way. Piracy does their advertisement automatically.
      Even people will always look at me strangely and make some wrong assumption about me, mocking me all the time if I jump to anything else other than Windows. This is more or less the same every corner of this planet.
      Personally I am a video editing professional, Graphics Designer, Photographer and have some coding experience with C/C++, batch file, linux-shell scripting, makefile writing, xml, html etc.
      I don’t love windows or hate windows, I just use it because the world is windows, not anymore reason behind using this ugly (e.g. WIn 8) crash prone (e.g. 2000/XP/7) footware.
      For UNIX and linux, I deeply respect them both but no plan to use them now, if the time comes I will test them surely.

  14. alex says:

    hey scali, what do you think about gnome and maybe kde depending on systemd?

    • Scali says:

      Well, I didn’t really give it much thought, since it does not apply to me, but it appears that it is dividing the linux world. Desktop-oriented users seem to be moving to systemd, while server-oriented users prefer the more traditional UNIX startup scripts. I’ve been reading that server-oriented linux users are looking at FreeBSD more and more. Would be an interesting development if this systemd-thing would actually help FreeBSD marketshare.

  15. Joerg says:

    Interesting discussion here, with interesting historical background, many thanks for that. When I was a student, I started with an ATARI ST, like a poor mans Mac. Later, I bought a NeXTstation (yes!), and I was amazed about the GUI, functions and features, how easy everything was AND the possibility to learn UNIX type of things.

    After starting to work at my employeer of choice, I was forced to use WIndows 3.x at my workplace. what a disaster compared to my NeXTStation! Ok, WIndows made progress over time with Win 95,98,ME,NT,XP,7 etc, but in the meantime, privately I switched to linux, preferably MINT, which is based on userfriendly UBUNTU. But I also enjoy openSuse, btw.

    I had a hard time in the beginning to get all my hardware with linux to work, but due to the huge and extremly friendly linux internet community, I made it. Certainly also my UNIX know how from former NeXT time helped. Now I am enjoing relatively old PCs, which boot and shutdown in seconds, do not bother me with Virus kind of things etc. 95% of my work I can do in linux. I am using KDE and made it looking somehow “Maclike”

    The reason to keep on working with Windows was basically Itunes for my Iphone (what kind of Irony) and HD Video processing.

    Finally, I bought and older IMAC for my wife and a MACPro for me. First impression: AMAZING and UNIX in the background! Then, certian issues with WIFI at my Fritzbox router (obviously SW incompatibility), which could only be solved with external components, where it was hard to find drivers for MacOSX.

    Finally I made also this.

    Bottomline: I am administrating WIN7, linux, OSX together, they enjoy co-existance in my home network. They all work, and all have their pros and cons. If Apple would not follow this closed box principle where I often feel like in a prison, I would have completely switched to them, simply because it works right from the beginning (as long as you do not leave their ecosystem). But I llke the openess of linux which allows me to configure the system completely to my desire, the idea of open source and I have deepest respect for these people, who do all this nice work without any commercial interest.

    • Scali says:

      Well, there certainly is commercial interest in linux. See here for example:
      About 75-80% of all linux contributions come from commercial companies.

    • MacOS9 says:

      LinuxMint (the LTS, Ubuntu-based variants) and the main branch of OpenSUSE (not the Tumbleweed rolling release) are probably the two most hardware-friendly variants of Linux out there currently – and are solid options if you don’t want to run proprietary OSes – or if you want to stick something free onto Mac hardware, for example.

      Having said that, recent versions of Windows (7 and 8/8.1) are not bogged down by viruses and run well – with the free antivirus program Microsoft Security Essentials (for 7) and Defender (that is baked into 8/8.1) being perfectly adequate for keeping viruses out. I’m running Win7 in VBox and I’m pleased by what I’ve seen so far – it’s a solid system (and I say this as a longtime Mac user). Windows can also be installed directly onto Intel Macs if you like, if you prefer more hardware compatibility than available with Linux.

      I will grant you though that 3rd-party routers often don’t play that well with OS X – usually Airport extreme or express works better in such cases and is supported by Windows too. On Linux, the Airport control panel, however, is severely outdated (not having been updated in more than 10 yrs.).

      In short: if you are running only Mac hardware (iMacs and Mac Pros, Intel based) but hate the walled garden that is OS X – you may get more mileage out of installing Win7/8/8.1 on your boxes than Linux – that way you can use a third-party router too and avoid Airport if you don’t want to touch OS X.

  16. I’ve heard a lot of people on OSX mention software that definitely started on Linux however!

    • MacOS9 says:

      You probably mean such things as WebKit that was first used in Konqueror in KDE flavors of Linux…and now more famously is the underpinning to the Safari web browser.

      Can’t think of anything else off the top of my head: OS X is based on the BSD variant of UNIX so there are similarities to Linux, but it’s “technically” not based directly on Linux itself.

  17. Steve says:

    Nit picking, Apples OS is more or less Linux, a closed crippled version of Linux.

    • Scali says:

      No, Apple’s OS is a UNIX, but not based on linux in any way.
      Certainly not ‘a version of linux’.
      The whole point of this article is that there are so many people who are clueless about UNIX, and think that everything that is remotely UNIX is linux.

      • MacOS9 says:

        Indeed, it’s probably more logical to say that Linux is a crippled/forked version of UNIX since it is or was based on UNIX, not the other way around. I love how the Linux folks think that everything non-Linux is “crippled” in some way. 😀

      • Scali says:

        Well, if you say ‘based on UNIX’, that implies it is literally based on the code of the original UNIX OS, as developed by AT&T. For BSD variants, including OS X, this is true (BSD stands for Berkeley Software Distribution, and started out as a patched/updated version of the original UNIX. You could see it as an early fork). For linux/GNU-based OSes, this is not.

  18. MacOS9 says:

    Interesting stuff….have been doing some reading today on the history of Linux…it seems that it’s based on MINIX (developed by Tanenbaum)….but with some variations that Torvalds put into it. Around 2006 Tanenbaum criticized the use of something called a “monolithic kernel” instead of a microkernel in Linux. From what I could gather MINIX is still around but not as popular as Linux.

    • Scali says:

      I’m not sure if linux is actually based on MINIX. I do know that Linus started on linux because he wanted a 386 kernel for MINIX, which Tanenbaum was not interested in developing at that time.
      Early versions of linux used the MINIX filesystem, but I don’t suppose they could run MINIX binaries, since they would be 16-bit, and linux is 32-bit.
      And linux moved to the ext filesystem at an early stage, so I don’t think ‘based on MINIX’ is quite accurate.

      • MacOS9 says:

        Fascinating stuff…I learn something new every day on this forum….is MINIX still in development or is it obsolete, gone the way of BeOS and OS/2 Warp?

      • Alex says:

        I´m pretty sure that Linux was written from the ground up, but with most of the early design inspired by Minix.

  19. MacOS9 says:

    Yes, from what I’ve been reading further it seems that Linux was developed from the ground up as Linux, but borrowed some things from MINIX in its earliest versions. It also seems that MINIX is still around (at version 3.0)…go to m i n i x 3 . o r g for more info. if interested.

  20. Dre says:

    Read this, it explains where apple got a old linux type and how apple and linux started.


  21. MacOS9 says:

    Hi Scali, I have (what I think is an interesting technical) question regarding Windows but decided to post it here under OS X vs. Linux since I can’t find a good spot for it here on your blog.

    The situation, noticeable in both Win 7 and 8, is as follows:

    Upon installation of the system on a computer (or in this case VirtualBox), the initial account I am given is by default an administrator account.

    I then proceed to create another couple of accounts, one administrator, the other standard, and I then change the initial account that I was first given on the computer upon installation from administrative to standard.

    The peculiarity is this:

    In the command terminal, I am – from the new administrative account – able to cd into the new standard account that I made – but I am not able to cd into the standard account that was previously an administrator account.

    In fact, the cmd prompt tells me that the administrative-turned-standard account is either not accessible or does not exist – does this have something to do with the fact that the account in question underwent a status change from administrator to standard user? Perhaps some subtle registry corruption there that I need to dig into?

    It almost seems like a dissociation of sorts on the OS – the “new” administrative account does not recognize the presence or know the existence of old administrative-turned-standard accounts, but has no problem cd-ing into accounts that are always “standard user” and never underwent status changes.

    Any feedback on the issue will be read with great interest. Thanks all, and keep up the good work with the stimulating blog.

    • Klimax says:

      Those directories might have exclusive access based on ACL (Only Administrator permitted, not Administrators group). Would have to create installation with Admin enabled and used at least once. (I have none with such configuration since XP) However, you should have just disabled it. (Much better idea and IIRC recommended action) Altering built-in account might have anomalous, unexpected effects.

      • MacOS9 says:

        Very interesting topic…I have a feeling that my “transformation” of the original administrative account to a standard one, after creating a newer administrative account, may have disassociated something at the registry and/or ACL level between accounts.

        I did use the administrative-turned-standard account a few times as administrator before transforming it to standard, but will see how things go – Windows Update is working properly across all accounts, which is good to know.

        I noticed the peculiarity of trying to cd from an administrative account into a previous administrator account after tweaking a Windows 8.1 install in VirtualBox. The same problem I spotted differently a couple of years ago when installing Windows 7. In that case, the screen saver settings that I applied from a freshly created administrative account would for some reason never apply to and/or override the screen saver settings for my old administrative account that I had changed to a standard one.

        The resolution in that case required a few registry additions for the screen saver that would “cement” screen saver choices in place across all accounts.

        Thank you for the advice.

  22. moncholo says:

    Thanks for illuminate our world. Good work and as pedantic as a Mac user. But the real difference between Mac and Linux is that Linux is for men. 😉

  23. I think the thing that specialists in any field tend to forget, is that the rest of the world doesn’t care. Sure, which name is used is important, in the field, but most (billions vs millions) of people really couldn’t care less, and in many cares, their monitor is the computer, that other box must bet he power supply or something…

    • Scali says:

      I don’t think that quite applies here. This is more like someone driving a BMW and going to a Mercedes dealer for service, because “it’s all the same”.

      They’re both cars, but that’s where the similarities end. They are different designs, built by different manufacturers. Much like OS X and Linux.

      • Well, I agree with you in principle, but in practice not so much. And I expect if you are pushing your BMW into the Mercedes dealer because it won’t start and the BMW dealer is here and there is no Mercedes dealer for 100’s of miles, that the BMW dealer could get it running for you.

        If you Linux installation is “broken” and your best friend is a BSD person, they could probably find the problem and fix it. Or if your OS X is broken a Linux person could probably fix it – they may not like it, and may need to do some research by they could get it up and running again. I will agree that the majority of OS X users probably would stall trying to find the terminal on a headless SuSE installation. But, then most OS X users would not know what a terminal is.

        My mother called her GE Refrigerator a “Frigidaire” no matter how many times we corrected her.

        I don’t know very many people that know what an adjustable spanner is, but most people have an idea what a Crescent wrench is.

        Most people drive other people crazy with using the wrong “words” for things, lots of people don’t know the difference between bugs and insects – the exterminator can kill both.

        Lots of people don’t know the difference between fish and dolphins, or that a dolphinfish is a Coryphaena hippurus. And of course we don’t even want to start on common name vs scientific name.

        So, while you are technically accurate that isn’t going to stop people from using the term they think is right, and getting our panties in a wad over an improper word seems a silly thing to do vs just “fixing the problem”.

      • Scali says:

        There’s no problem to fix. It’s just an observation that most people are ignorant. Unlike you, I don’t try to excuse it.

        The thing here is that these people actually tried to sound smart and knowledgeable about computers. It got even more ridiculous when people were using OS X as an example of how successful Linux is. Clearly this goes way beyond just basic ignorance. If you try to advocate a system like that, and your premise is completely wrong…

  24. s. c. rewu says:

    you’re such a dick to say the linux community is ignorant

  25. Interesting information, Scali. You have it, “mostly” correct.

    Darwin is not the kernel, it’s the text based OS underneath OS X’s GUI, the kernel of Darwin is called, “XNU”. Darwin is a fork of both NetBSD and FreeBSD mixed together. The userland, however, is very unique
    to Darwin, it has it’s own, not forked from the BSDs.

    OS X takes the base Darwin OS and tweaks it a little bit while the GUI part of the OS X adds elements in from other desktops, NeXTStep, etc.

    You’re right, it’s not a fork of Linux and never has been. As that can be understood from looking at the type of licensing found in the Apple repositories, being that of BSD and MIT and not GPL and LGPL types.

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