Point, Counterpoint: Mac OS X Is Great for Fortysomething Unix Hackers

Paul Graham -著名Lisp程序员,散文家, godfather of using贝叶斯统计分析to identify spam, and, now, co-founder of aventure firm for early-stage startups- 本周早些时候发表了一篇题为“Return of the Mac”,开始:

祝一切顺利黑客我知道正逐渐转向macMy friend Robert said his whole research group at MIT recently bought themselves PowerbooksThese guys are not the graphic designers and grandmas who were buying Macs at Apple’s low point in the mid 1990s. They’re about as hardcore OS hackers as you can get.

当然,原因是OS XPowerbooks are beautifully designed and run FreeBSD你还需要知道什么?

所以我想我们可以假设格雷厄姆不知道蒂姆·布雷-search expert,XML共同创造者黑客”,网络技术总监“太阳,散文家/ weblogger— who, earlier this week, claimed he was considering switchingfrom the Mac, or, as he put it,unswitching


On the surface, Graham’s piece seems like a nice pat on the back to the Mac platformBut there’s an implication in his piece that the world’s most prodigiously talented programmers are only now switching (or switching back) to the Mac, when in fact some of them have been here all alongGUI programming is hard, and for GUI programmers, the Mac has always been,在布伦特西蒙斯的话中, “演出”。

即the idea that by the mid-’90s the Mac user base had been whittled down to “graphic designers and grandmas” is demonstrably false — someone must have been writing the software the designers and grandmas were using, no? — but I don’t think it’s worth pressing the point, because I suspect it wasn’t really what Graham meant to implyAnd the main thrust of his point is true: there is a certain class of hackers — your prototypical Unix nerds — who not only weren’t using Macs a decade ago, but whose antipathy toward Macs was downright hostileAnd it is remarkable that these hackers are now among Mac OS X’s strongest adherents.

It’s another sign of Mac OS X’s dual nature: from the perspective of your typical user (and particularly long-time Mac users), it is the Mac OS with a modern Unix architecture encapsulated under the hood; from the perspective of the hackers Graham writes of, it is Unix with a vastly superior GUI.

一年前我写了”Ronco喷涂可用性” in response to Eric SRaymond’s call-to-arms for better usability in open source desktop user-interface designAddressing this issue of Mac OS X users immigrating from Unix-land, I wrote:

[…] Most of the talented developers still using desktop Linux are either cheapskates or free-software political zealots.

这并不是说桌面Linux没有在使用中增长It is, and will continue toBut it’s growing at the bottom end of the market — cheap $400 computers from Wal-MartThat’s a market where software usability is not a key feature.

My crack about “cheapskates and free-software political zealots” being the only developers left using open source desktop systems struck a nerve in the Slashdot crowd, prompting me toaddress it in a follow-up:

I heard from Linux users who claim to be neither cheapskates nor political zealots, but who have no intention of switching to Mac OS X, under any circumstances, everThe reasons vary, but common ones include:

  • Mac OS X does not have an option for “焦点跟随鼠标”。
  • Mac OS X不允许您使用其他版本窗口管理器
  • You can’t change the way Mac OS X looks without resorting to unsupported hacks.

但具体原因真的不重要It all boils down to the fact that most aspects of Mac OS X are not designed to be configurable or replaceable; they are designed to be usable, and to fit in with the design of the rest of the system.

They’re also designed to work specifically with Apple’s own hardware — which many of these “I’m not a cheapskate but I don’t want to pay for Apple hardware” types refuse to recognize as a huge usability advantage for Mac OS X.

I didn’t say “Unix nerds” are switching to Mac OS X in droves; I said “Unix nerds关心可用性的人”People who want a Unix system that just works, so they can get on with their real work — those are the ones who are switchingAs opposed to Unix nerds whose interest is the computer itself, and who want to tinker with it at any and every level — i.eUnix nerds who do not care about usability.

That was written a year ago, and I think the trend has only accelerated since thenI think this is the point that Graham is trying to makeBut as astute and insightful as Graham is, I think he misstates the primary reason for the Mac’s resurgent popularity amongst his hacker friends格雷厄姆写道:

If you want to attract hackers to write software that will sell your hardware, you have to make it something that they themselves useIt’s not enough to make it “open.” It has to be open and good.

最后,麦克斯再次开放和善良The intervening years have created a situation that is, as far as I know, without precedent: Apple is popular at the low end and the high end, but not in the middle我七十岁的母亲有一台Mac笔记本电脑My friends with PhDs in computer science have Mac laptopsAnd yet Apple’s overall market share is still small.

The problem hackers had with Mac OS 7-9 wasn’t that it was bad — but that it wasn’t good for the tasks they cared aboutAnd in a hacker’s mindset, if a computer isn’t good for his particular brand of hacking, that computer isn’t good, period.

The core difference between Mac OS X and the old Mac OS isn’t that it is flat-out better, but that it is good in (mostly) all the ways the old Mac OS was good,1and but is also good in entirely different ways这是苹果it is Unix, at the same time.

The appeal to hackers is obvious: as users, they get the Mac’s superior desktop apps (iTunes, iMovie, etc.); as programmers, they get their favorite development tools: Perl, Python, Ruby, Apache, MySQL, and all the way down the Unix tool chain.

The primary group of programmers who were attracted to the old Mac OS were those who wanted to write Mac software: application software and other projects meant for use by regular Mac usersMac OS X, on the other hand, is attractive to those same programmers, for the same reasons, and also attractive to all sorts of other programmers as well — most especially to those writing software for the web.

And even for those utterly Unix-stained souls who don’t care a whit about the Mac side of Mac OS X, there are numerous reasons to prefer Mac OS X over Linux as a desktop OSNot the least of which is the tight integration with Apple’s hardware, especially beneficial if you want a laptop.

In short, Mac OS X is a deeply appealing platform for a very large share of the overall hacker marketIt’s the intersection of almost everything that’s good about the old Mac OS and the open source Linux desktops.


Which deep appeal makes Tim Bray’s “unswitch” diatribe all the more perplexingThere’s no need to bother pointing out to Bray that a PowerBook running Mac OS X is the best way to run a Unix-style OS on a laptop —他写道,自己的论点three years ago, when he bought his first PowerBook:

But recently I’ve noticed that a lot of my grizzled contemporaries, and quite a few younger open-source luminaries, are starting to carry Macintoshes原因似乎是:

  • With the arrival of OS X, a Mac is actually a full-featured Unix system.

  • It has a well-thought-through, consistent, and rather beautiful user interface that requires neither sending money to Redmond nor editing Xt resource files nor knowing what a “termcap” is.

  • 真的,真的,fast suspend/resume. Open the laptop up and by the time your fingers are on the keyboard it’s ready for you to start typingThe amount of time the entire human population spends sitting in front of Windows boxes waiting for them to be ready to work is probably in aggregate worth the GDP of a medium-sized country.

What’s changed since then? Has something better come along? Apparently that’s not it:

My big gripe with Apple, of course, is their cult of hermetic secrecyWe at Sun and our esteemed competitors up in Redmond are engaged in a grand experiment: what happens when you dramatically increase a company’s transparency? Initial results are pretty good for both of us当然,苹果的方法是完全相反的。

哦,好吧,当然Rather than picking a system based on its quality or suitability for your needs, pick it based on the level of “secrecy” maintained by the company that makes it.

What secrets, I wonder, does Bray feel Apple would be better off not keeping? Details of upcoming major updates to Mac OS X? Oh, wait, they did reveal those, last June at WWDC, along with regular seeds of Mac OS X 10.4 as it progressed through beta testing.

As for Sun’s grand experiment in transparency, I’m sure Apple is indeed quite interested in generating the same degree of buzz and publicity around their product announcements as surround Sun’sI mean, could speculation regarding the announcements at the next Solaris trade show be running any hotter?


[Apple controls] the message, nothing that’s not part of the message can be said, nobody is allowed to say anything except for Steve, and they’ll sue your ass if you step out of bounds.

Whom have they sued for merely “stepping out of bounds”? Or is “stepping out of bounds” the same thing as “breaking the law”?

That court case is really irritating; the judge cleverly side-stepped the issue of whether free-speech guarantees apply to bloggers by finding on the basis that this wasn’t about free speech, it was about trade secretsShould Apple win, each and every player in the financial industry who’s trying to do something sleazy or unscrupulous will be able to claim that their accounting practices or transfer pricing or whatever are “trade secrets” and litigate aggressively against anyone, journalist or otherwise, who tries to get at the truthEnron’s “special-purpose entities”? Trade secrets. Worldcom’s revenue-recognition policy? Trade secretWrite about it and you’re in court.

Perhaps Bray wouldn’t find Judge Kleinberg’s ruling so irritating if he’d actually bother to read it(我举办一个PDF副本这里.) Kleinberg specifically addresses the exact scenarios raised by Bray. On p12执政党(重点):

At the hearing the Court specifically asked what public interest was served by publishing private, proprietary product information that was ostensibly stolen and turned over to those with no business reason for getting itMovants’ response was to again reiterate the self-evident interest of the public in Apple, rather than justifying why citizens have a right to know the private and secret information of a business entity, be it Apple, H-P, a law firm, a newspaper, Coca-Cola, a restaurant, or anyone else.Unlike the whistleblower who discloses a health, safety, or welfare hazard affecting all, or the government employee who reveals mismanagement or worse by our public officials, the movants are doing nothing more than feeding the public’s insatiable desire for information.


I don’t know, maybe traditional message management will work for Apple; arguably transparency matters less when you’re selling Kool Toys to Kool Kids is, as opposed to selling long-term infrastructure bets to businesspeople.

I wonder which company, Sun or Apple, is considered a better long-term bet to investors these days? If only we could see agraph comparing their stock prices over the last two years

(I don’t mean to disparage the quality of Sun’s hardware or software, but I can’t resist the stock-price pot-shotIt’s just so weird to see a guy like Tim Bray — who generally comes across as being wise, temperate, and clever — resort to childish “Kool Kids” name-calling.)

Bray then goes on to explain why he switched from Safari to Firefox — seemingly random SPODs, and griping about the fact that you’re never more than one ⌘Q away from losing your entire browser sessionHere, at least, Bray and I are on the same pageBut as noted by Bray himself in a后续, one can guard against accidentally quitting Safari and losing a bunch of open browser windows by changing the menu key shortcut for the Quit menu item, using the “Keyboard & Mouse” System Preferences panel.

But feeling the need to switch from Safari is a far cry from feeling the need to switch from Mac OS XUsing Firefox doesn’t make you less of a Mac OS X user.

Bray also goes on to complain about his PowerBook’s screen (which is a better screen than the one in his first PowerBook three years ago, which he引用then as one of the best reasons to get a PowerBook) and performance (he wants a new laptop that’s “twice as fast”).


On the other hand, maybe Apple will dial back the infofascism and figure out how to ship a fast laptop with a good screen.

And I’ll just point out that “infofascism” seems like an awfully loaded term considering the rather hollow charges Bray has levied. Perhaps there is a case to be made against Mac OS X, or against PowerBooks, or against Apple Computer但这肯定不是。

I was half-tempted to dredge up Bray’s argument from last year that Apple should “开源” (Bray wants Apple to release the source to apps like Mail, Safari, and the Finder) just to have something worth debatingAt least with his “go open source” argument, he, well, argues.

Here, though, all we’re left with is that Bray thinks Apple is too “secretive” and so maybe he won’t use their computers any moreWhich secrets Apple shouldn’t be keeping, or how they’re any more secretive now than they were three years ago当布雷第一次, who knows?

  1. With certain notable and specific user-interface-related exceptions, such as, say, the FinderExceptions notwithstanding, however, the Mac remains a platform where developers are committed to consistent, intuitive user-interface design.↩︎