Traiter to the OSS cause

For some years now I’ve been a regular user of Open Source Software – OSS. I love the fact that OSS software is community-driven, that the source code is readily available and editable by anyone – plus the fact that it is generally free.

In many cases, “free” doesn’t necessarily mean “crap” either. Some of the Internet’s most used applications are Open Source and are of generally equal, if not superior, quality to the proprietary equivalents. PHP and Apache are two such applications – software that provides a huge chunk of the internet infrastructure.

My PC at home has Ubuntu installed on it. Ubuntu is a particularly popular flavour of Linux, an Open Source operating system. Rather than using a proprietary, and costly, operating system for my home PC use I’ve been enjoying this excellent, free software.

Ubuntu has many positives to recommend it. It’s largely driven by a very active community and contains some of the more recent developments in Linux software development. Updates are regular, often daily, unlike the monthly updates from Microsoft, and contains some of the most innovative GUI enhancements around.

So, why the hell would I want to change any of that?

I’ve been asking that question of myself quite a bit recently. Why change from this interesting, innovative and useful collection of software? Why buy into something other than Open Source – something, *gulp*, proprietary in nature?

Well, I did something contrary to my belief in Open Source on Sunday. I bought an iMac!

I can hardly believe I did it, especially everything else I’ve been through with Linux, but here I am with a piece of proprietary hardware and software on my desk. It’s difficult to really pin down why I so desired an iMac, but I’ll attempt to explain this seemingly illogical purchase.

Firstly, I was in need of a new computer. My old machine was starting to sound a little rough and whereas it was generally fast enough for normal use it really started to feel to strain when I tried Ubuntu with Compiz installed. I like a bit of eye-candy and Ubuntu was starting to deliver some gorgeous, useful utilities but my old machine just couldn’t cope with all that processing. It was getting to old and too noisy too.

So, I could have just upgraded my current box, but to make it significantly better would have required a new motherboard and processor, along with some other new parts to stop all the noise. My 19 inch LCD monitor was fine, but just about everything else needed replacing. I’ve been secretly admiring the iMac for a while and it seemed to me that the time may be ripe for me to actually dive into a new desktop experience.

We have a good friend that lives over in Northern Ireland. He’s an architect and he uses multiple iMacs for his business. The last time we visited them I was impressed my the aesthetics of the iMac and the general usefulness and seemingly effortless utility of OSX. It was all so shiny and lovely.

A month or so ago they came to stay with us in Nottingham, and we happened to be looking for something in our local retail park. PC World was close by and so we popped in to look at the iMacs. He showed me around the interface and I was utterly sold – I just had to have one.

But before I could bring myself to make the purchase I had to weigh up my options, most of which would have saved me quite a bit of money. I could have purchased a new desktop for less than half the price of the iMac and installed Ubuntu onto that. I could have bought the bits and built myself a rather ace desktop with some fancy case along with an OEM installation of Windows Vista, which could have been dual-booted with Linux. Either of those would have been good choices, but I would not have had a gorgeous 24 inch screen.

I know this is a pretty weak reason for buying it, but the one thing more than anything else that has persuaded me to buy an iMac is the fact that it is utterly beautiful. It’s almost a work of art in itself, and the fact that the software that comes with it is particularly useful is an added bonus.

So, I am now a Mac owner and user. The last couple of days have been spent trying to figure out how the hell it all works. I still have Tiger on there but Leopard will be on its way in the next day or so. Once I have the new version of OSX on I shall be attempting to configure Boot Camp to allow me to boot into Ubuntu if I choose to do so, although I will also be trying to installing it to run simultaneously with OSX buy using an emulator like Parallels.

I also have the opportunity to install some of my favourite OSS software on Mac OSX using Fink. This is a clever project that ports Linux software using Debian tools and makes them available to those of us living in the proprietary world of Apple OSX.

I have not abandoned Open Source, but it seems that I am sleeping with the enemy. To extend that metaphor even further it would seem that this enemy is an absolutely spectacular shag!

I’m still learning my way around OSX for the moment but I’m seriously impressed so far. We shall see where this leads me.