Mac OS X vs. Linux, PPC vs. x86
My original intent for this blog was to share what info I could about the Mini and my experiences with it. Along the way I have stimulated some interesting Linux PPC discussions both here and in other forums. I have been frequently emailed and/or flamed regarding running Linux instead of Mac OS X, and just as often with people wondering why I don't just use an x86 box.
Basically I prefer Linux becuase:
- Everything I want/need to run is available for Linux. Yes, most of it is available for Mac OS X too, but sometimes the effort to get it to run there is significantly greater than the effort on Linux. I should point out that I don't need anything in iLife, and that features like Expose' may be cute but from my view they just consume CPU cycles, something Mac hardware doesn't have to waste.
- Linux is rock solid. I run it on PPC, x86, and ARM. The OS never fails. For any multi-platform application like Firefox, my experience is that it run's best on Linux with less crashes than elsewhere. While Mac OS X is far more reliable than Windows, it can be pretty unpredictable. I've owned a number of Mac machines over the last several years, I base these comments on my personal experiences as both a user and an admin for several family members. BTW, Safari is the most unreliable software I have ever used. Why Apple chooses to provide that POS instead of a far superior open source alternative I'll never understand. Perhaps it is so that siwtchers use to Internet Exploder have the same experience on Mac OS X?
- Linux is considerably faster. Run the same app on the same hardware with Linux and Mac OS X. It is observably faster under Linux.
- I don't have to give anyone $100+ per year to remain current, I just download stuff I need.
- I get the source, all of it, not just the Unix core.
Assuming you are going to run Linux, and you don't need cutting edge performance, Mac machines are great. The hardware is purpose built and it shows. The commodity x86 market takes a least common denominator approach. Every machine I have owned has had a pile of PCI, MCA, or ISA slots. I never used more than one. Yet because some customers need five (I guess) I have a PC that is at least twice as big as it needs to be. Mac's are small, quiet, well built, and have very reliable hardware. The design effort that goes into them shows. They also cost about 2x for equivalent performance.
I keep hearing from Mini ITX guys about how that platform is the best of both worlds. While it is promising, there are only a few signficiant players and when all is said and done it approaches Mac pricing at similar performance. Hopefully the Mini will stimulate more competition, and more importantly innovation in the smaller/quieter x86 PC market.
Bottom line though, is that running Linux on x86 is the easiest approach. You just need to carefully choose the best of the hardware that is available, and have a little more space and cooling.