Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce LCA2009: It's a Linux conference - but there's Macs aplenty

LCA2009: It's a Linux conference - but there's Macs aplenty

One thing that has been increasing exponentially at the Australian national Linux conference is that shiny, steel-grey laptop - or, at times, the sleek white one.

Yes, I'm talking about MacBooks. Last year there were just a few among the 700-odd attendees. This year, among the 500-odd people attending the conference, there are lots more.

I asked a few of those who were carrying around these shiny laptops why they were using a Mac at a Linux conference; wasn't Linux enough for them?

Web developer Jeffery Fernandez, who is employed by Internet Vision Technologies in Melbourne, said he had a Mac "because everything just works."

The hardware was top quality, he said, adding, however that he had a Linux distribution, OpenSUSE ("I am a big fan") running within VMWare. So he wasn't exactly bereft of Linux.

"Only because it's pretty," smiled James Page, senior systems administrator at the University of Southern Queensland, when I asked him the same question.

He did have some serious reasons: the Mac was what was available at his workplace. He had two choices - the Mac or Windows - and chose the former because he needed an X term.

CONTINUED

His Mac has a Fedora installation set up as a dual boot but he said the wireless connection with Fedora was rather flaky and managing the brightness of the display was a problem as well.

Famous people use the Mac too. Rasmus Lerdorf, the creator of the PHP programming language, said he had bought a Mac because he could not get a non-Windows laptop. And he was certainly not willing to pay the Microsoft tax.

Lerdorf uses the Mac all the time; he has a Linux VM running which he uses for development. His co-location server runs Debian.

For Neil Cox, a senior IT professional who provides support to small businesses in Canberra, the one reason for a Mac was great hardware. And Cox has no use for OSX - he has stripped it off and is running Lenny on the Macbook.

"Great hardware," he said when asked why he had a Mac. "I've bought Macs since 1985. Had one Dell laptop and didn't like it."

Cox is a command-line person by and large but said he occasionally used GNOME.

Louis Suarez-Potts, community manager for OpenOffice.org at Sun Microsystems, said he was a Mac user because "much of what I do requires tools that are reliable." He also runs Linux in a virtual machine, using VMWare for the purpose.

James Turnbull, who works as a senior network specialist with a big Australian corporate, said he was using a MacBook simply because he had gotten into using OSX at a stage when both GNOME and KDE, the two most used Linux desktop environments, were "not at their prettiest."

"I have a dual boot with Ubuntu," Turnbull said. " The Mac is a good piece of hardware. But my next buy is going to be one of the netbooks on which I'll put Linux."

I asked two other conference attendees for their input but they did not wish to be quoted.

There were quite a few others I spotted running Linux on the Mac. It looks like Apple need have no worries that Linux will lower its sales numbers.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.