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Switcher Stories Follow Up

by Tim O'Reilly
09/17/2002

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article called Mac OS X Switcher Stories. It was based on an informal poll I'd done to find out where recent OS X adopters were coming from. A lot of people responded to that column, and I'd like to post some of their comments here, as well as invite the rest of you to weigh in. (I apologize for not having a "Comment on this Article" link in that first article. The feedback from readers is an important part of a story like this, and it's a lot easier to receive feedback in an open forum, directly and immediately, rather than through email that we repost a few weeks later.)

Mark Onyschuk writes that there's no point in pitting two Unix-based OSes against each other.

An interesting article about "switching from the not-so-obvious target market segment."

In my opinion, Apple knows full well that there are going to be a large percentage of switchers coming from the Linux side, in part because I think it's "built-in" to Apple (ex-NeXT) management's perception of the world--that there's a value in building an easy-to-use, Unix-based OS for consumers.

But, and here's where I differ with you, I think that Apple is being particularly low-key about this aspect of the "switch" because it serves no purpose to pit two emerging Unix-based OSes against each other in the face of a unified Microsoft. I agree with this approach, and I think that one of Microsoft's greatest nightmares has to be the fact that there's actually one honest-to-god vendor out there that can carry the ease-of-use argument in conjunction with the Unix flag, yet not be in such a "market-share dogfight" that it has to discredit other Unix vendors just to keep the stock price afloat.

I should also give credit where it's due on the consumer front. I'm an ex-NeXT myself, and we all believed in that mix of Unix and real mom-and-pop users. It was something that was always promised, but something that NeXT could never really deliver. Apple seems to be doing it.

Mark's point is a good one. Unix has a history of infighting over small version differences. And Apple certainly doesn't want

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to go down the path of fighting with Red Hat and Sun over Unix market share--they want to stay focused on the mainline consumer market. But at the same time, it's important to recognize who your early adopter customers are--they often provide important clues to the larger markets that you can penetrate after your products "cross the chasm."

Bob Edmison says students are leading an almost subversive movement toward OS X on campus.

I just finished reading you "Mac Switchers Stories" article, and I have a little tidbit you might find interesting.

I am on the research faculty at Virginia Tech, which is Virginia's land-grant university. VT cranks out a lot of computer engineers and computer science guys, as well as a bunch of MIS/Corporate IT types. So, as you might expect, M$ is fairly well entrenched in terms of what the students have to use. There are only a couple of departments on campus that require Macs. The rest are Wintel, and most of the enterprise management stuff is M$/Wintel.

Now that OS X has been out for a while, there is almost a subversive movement inside several of the departments lead by the students! I've seen several of the student geeks with TiBooks and iBooks, loaded with OS X, and then sitting out in very public study areas doing their work. We have several buildings with 802.11 access, mostly housing the Engineering and CS departments, so these kids are hanging out in the atrium or sitting outside on the lawn, all the while attached to the university network.

The primary targets are the professors, because, of course, they set the course and hardware requirements for the departments. And it turns out that dropping into Terminal.app is the thing that really blows the professors away. It totally shatters their long-held belief that you can't do serious computing on a Mac. Now they see you can do data visualizations, or develop compilers or build data-driven Web sites using open source tools, all on the Mac. I know of at least a dozen faculty members who have switched from Wintel or Linux to OS X. I know several who have started using Darwin on Intel hardware as there Unix underpinnings of choice. In my lab alone, we have 10 students, of which 8 have switched. Over and over, the thing I hear the most is "The UI is gorgeous!" and "It just works."

I only wish Apple could figure out a way to leverage this as a long term assault on the business marketplace. If you get the current crop of students hooked, 5 years from now they will start to become the decision makers.

Anyway, the subversion continues. I enjoyed your talk at WWDC, and look forward to hearing you in the future.

Interesting indeed. Your story illustrates how much Mac OS X is catching on as a grassroots phenomenon. Customers are doing the marketing for Apple, which is a really good sign. Most really great products catch on by word of mouth. All professional marketing can do is to help add fuel to the fire.

Tom Van Vleck wants to switch to OS X, but he has a feeling Apple is squeezing him. So he can either put up with Linux, which will approach the Mac gradually, or put up with OS X, which will approach Linux gradually.

I use multiple operating systems every day. I hope to use OS X as my everyday desktop, once a few missing pieces are filled in.

As far as being a "switcher," I did pretty much switch from Windows to Linux, using VMWare to run Windows for access to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. I'd switch again, to OS X, if my hardware is supported and the tools I need are there. I've loved Macs since the 80s, and having the Mac human interface with a Unix inside sounds great.

My Wall Street Mac has OS X on it, but I usually run OS 9, because it supports LocalTalk Bridge, and the Wall Street can talk LocalTalk to my LaserJet and Ethernet to my wife's G3. My D-Link print server box can run the laser printer -- except for binary PostScript from Photoshop and Illustrator on the Mac.

I do get the feeling that Apple wants me to solve my printer problem by buying a new printer, and that they really want me to buy a new PowerBook pretty soon, too. And a lot of new software. Basically, buy everything new again. So I have a choice; I can put up with Linux, which will approach the Mac gradually, or I can put up with OS X, which will approach Linux gradually. I know which will be more expensive.

Cortlandt Winters has Mac envy, but because of the cost of replacing software, he still hasn't switched. He has an idea about how Apple could really make strides in adoption.

I just wanted to mention my thought on the switching to OS X topic as a Windows user who used to poo-poo the Mac, mostly because of its memory management, but who now has Mac envy. I have wanted to switch to Mac since OS X came out, primarily because it's a good Unix machine with a nice interface, and in particular to do in-house Web-technology oriented projects.

Nevertheless, I haven't done so. The reason is, like Bret Fausett pointed out, the cost of replacing software -- though I recognized it up front. At this point I have about 5,000 dollars in software for the PC accumulated from the past 7 years that I would want to switch a good portion of. As expensive as one of those small servers they just put out is, the software transfer costs make it too much to switch.

Note that if you map my decision point here on to your survey sample, it seems that most of the folk who are moving to OS X are doing so because their software translates pretty well.

Here's the interesting thing, because it is a way Apple could really make strides in adoption: enough of the software that I own has Mac versions that if Apple were to create and manage a process for trading in Windows licenses for Mac ones, it would make up enough difference in the cost that I would do it.

For example, what Apple could do is put together a Web application for a new OS X user to enter the Windows software that they would like to switch to Mac software. Apple sets up relationships with the software companies to manage the transition of software. They will have a lot of bargaining power as a user switching OSes is a great place for software vendors to either loose or gain customers. A list of the costs and terms involved for translating the different licenses based on their arrangements needs to be maintained and easily examined so we know how much and what it will cost to switch.

Most of the software I am thinking of (Macromedia's Studio MX, Painter, Eovia's Carrara Studio, Tibco Extensibility's Turbo XML) is already available on OS X. But the process of trying to contact all the companies individually to see if they'll let me switch the Mac versions is time-consuming and unreliable enough that I doubt if many would do it.

For each license, the partner company would validate my license and either allow me an exchange of my Windows license for a Mac one, offer a Mac license at some reasonably small fee, or a competitor could try to catch me as a new user with a competitive upgrade if no Mac version exists for an application. (BBEdit might give me a competitive upgrade for my UltraEdit license, for example. Or LightWave might offer a competitive upgrade to 3D Studio MAX users who are thinking of switching to Mac.) I'm skeptical of programs working properly in Windows emulators, but if some companies were to list the Windows emulators that they have tested their software to run properly in, that might replace a license translation. But I can't take Apple's or the emulator manufacturer's word for it. It has to come from the company that makes the program.

Personally, I think it all boils down to software at this point. Whether it's OS 9 to OS X or Windows to OS X or Linux and Unix to OS X, the clear reason in my mind that the Linux and Unix folk are the ones who are moving is they are the ones with the software licenses that translate most easily.

Software upgrade/switch pricing is definitely an issue Apple ought to be concerned about. Of course, it's more important to the Windows switchers than to the Unix/Linux switchers, since much of their software is either Java or open source, with minimal switching cost. I understand that some companies already provide cross-licensing programs, and my guess is that this trend will accelerate as the momentum of OS X gets more visible. BTW, most companies with an Office site license have one that covers both Macs and PCs, though sometimes they don't realize that fact.

As one friend at Apple commented, "The hard part is to get everyone wanting to use a Mac. Now we need to work out the details."

Larry Gearhart is sticking with Linux. He writes that the system-cost differential isn't justified for people like him, and open source is here to stay.

I hopped on the GUI bandwagon as soon as I could afford to. The early versions were pretty terrible, limited by the Intel 8086/88 address space. Windows 3.1 was an improvement, but I delayed entering that market until 386-based system prices came down. I was never in the market for a Mac, even though I knew the technology was much better. It wasn't sufficiently better in ways that counted to me. I was a systems programmer who did PC stuff as a hobby.

With that experience behind me, I switched to Linux ASAP. I now use Windows only to test browsers on my Web pages and to run Bible software. The learning curve was significant, but now it's past history. Mac OS X is probably better, but the system-cost differential is not justified for people like me. I envision its success in John/Mary Q. Public's study, especially if Linux doesn't get its act together on the desktop soon enough--about a one year window of opportunity. Even so, most people like me, who care about the technology, will never pay the difference. Open source is here to stay.

An anonymous, wannabe switcher writes about Mac usage stats on Google and OS X's barrier to entry.

I really liked your column on MacDevCenter about Mac uptake. I just wish there were more evidence that folks are really switching.

Anecdotally it seems people are switching. Rael, Cory, and Raffi all use Macs. There were iBooks all over the last Emerging Technology Conference. Great, no? But take a look at the stats Google publishes on the Zeitgeist. You'll see that going back as far as the data does, June 2001, the Macintosh usage Google has seen has stayed at a steady 4%. The January 2001 report doesn't have a number, but visually, also looks to be the same: 4%.

Google stats aren't a random sampling of all Internet users, but I think they're pretty close for these purposes. The only thing I could think would skew the stats is if Sherlock has a big impact. I don't know if it does, but I doubt it.

Personally, I'd try out OS X in a heartbeat if I could just run it on my junky PC hardware. But the barrier to entry of buying a new computer that can only run OS X is too high. Too bad Apple is a hardware company.

Soren (Kurgan) Birk Jacobsen has a problem with NeXTStep and speed per dollar in OS X.

Apart from the fact that 15 people is a bit of a skimpy foundation to build "perspective" upon, you might very well have received so many Linux/Unix switch responses because those are the people dominantly accessing the (might I add great!) O'Reilly resources.

As for my experience with switching to OS X, I can say the following:

  1. So far, I've been very disappointed with what they have done with NeXTStep. That was indeed a great system, at its time. Little has changed, and what has changed is for the worse (nonsense like jumping icons, etc.). Then again, I haven't tried Jaguar yet, so who knows?

  2. About speed, especially speed per dollar--Linux may not be as polished (though KDE 3 and GNOME 2 are quite polished), but it offers raw horsepower far outside the reach of the current OS X hardware platform, and that at a cost that is still less than a standard OS X box.

So must I conclude that the "switchers" are not major users of cpuCycles?

I've always believed that Linux will be the Unix platform of choice on the server end. My 1997 slogan was that Linux should aspire to be "the Intel inside of the next generation of computer applications," and that vision is largely coming true. Many of the most interesting "Internet applications," like Google, are actually running on top of Linux. Linux is finding great opportunities in CPU-intensive applications, from film special effects to bioinformatics. (That being said, OS X is finding some traction in these fields as well.)

Todd Hoff writes:

I'm a Windows-only user and I plan to switch to the Mac on my next purchase because of XP's DRM approach. Using XP would be like voluntarily entering a jail cell and closing the door.

From an interface perspective, I don't find the Mac superior.

Amen to your DRM concerns. Apple has been relatively more enlightened on the subject of DRM, recognizing that most users are fundamentally honest, and unwilling to support the extreme position of fear-mongering media executives.

Bill Gerrard tells why he switched from Linux. In addition to the hassle factor of too much tinkering, he cites the attitude of some Linux advocates as a turnoff:

I switched last month. Unix was my first OS, back in the early 80s, maybe even earlier. I was just starting my career with the feds, from whom I am now happily retired. When I started buying my own hardware, I followed the usual DOS/Windows route (although I was a heavy MKS Toolkit user) until the mid-90s, when I moved to Linux, primarily because it is Unix, not for theological reasons. There was also a B&W Mac Classic in there for a bit, too.

Why did I switch? Well . . .

  1. OS X looks much better. That's important. KDE and GNOME are making progress, but why should I wait? Many in the Linux community seem to dwell deep inside their server farms, and apparently begrudge the time and effort spent on improving what actually shows up on the user's screen. Developers can put the most amazing kind of functionality in an OS or an application, but if its visual appearance is amateurish, that's a turnoff. I grew tired of the indifference and hostility exhibited in segments of the Linux community about design and interface issues. Besides, I spent way too much time as a Linux user tweaking X and friends just to stop the eye-ache.

  2. Too much tweaking/too much temptation to tweak with Linux. I know how to edit config files; I know how to compile source files, etc. I also know how to cook, but I'd rather go to a nice restaurant.

  3. My printer works. Echoing the other "Stuff just works" comments, it is very nice not to jump through hoops trying to get a piece of hardware to work, and then only "work" in a compromised fashion.

  4. The Linux community became too obnoxious. There's a bit of hyperbole in that, but I just got fed up with the adolescent and uncivil attitudes exhibited by so many in that community. (See Slashdot on any given day.) Reminds me of the nasty old OS/2 crowd.

O'Reilly software engineer Tim Allwine writes about how sweet the switch is.

Some of you know that I've made the switch from an IBM running RedHat Linux 6.2 to a PowerBook G4. I am liking it more and more. Right now, I've got a tunnel forwarding port 25 and 110 to [one server]. In another terminal, I have an SSH connection to [another server] working on code for the single sign-on project. iTunes is running, playing music from my hard disk as well as copying songs off a different CD that's in the drive, all at the same time. Oh yes, Netscape, mail, and the calendar program are running. All this is over my wireless network at home. And when I stick the CD in the drive, I fetch the title/artist/album, etc. from CDDB. After years of fighting with Linux, this is sweet.

Randy Rush is a dual switcher--or should I say a triple switcher, from Windows 98, NT, and Linux. He repeats many of the arguments for Mac OS X that we've previously seen.

I am sure that your article has elicited a better statistical sampling.

I am a first-time Mac owner. I switched at home from a Windows 98 box and a dual boot Windows NT 4.0 and Debian Linux box. I needed a new laptop for school and decided that, with the power of Darwin and the Unix tools available, Mac OS X was the only way to go. I am still forced to use Windows 2K at work.

I consider myself an above average computer user (some formal education in programming in C and Perl, and the Unix operating system), but I am in no way a developer or guru. I dabbled in Linux and spent more hours frustrated than in pleasure while using it for my home OS.

With a sleek, sexy interface, incredibly cool case (I love the glowing apple on my iBook) and the power and stability of Unix, what choice did I really have?

David Meyer is only as geeky as he wants to be.

My first "real" computer was an Amiga. Eventually Commodore sank and orphaned me. I was contracting at a Mac shop at the time, running their Unix-based email system, and was able to buy a Quadra at a good price. I've since learned way too much about Windows and am happy luck ran my way that year. (The Quadra is still running, but not for me.) Before OS X I had a Mac on one side of my desk and an ex-Windows Linux box called Labrat on the other side. One I used all the time for my own interests, the other I used to expand my technical skills. Not long after OS X visited my desktop, Labrat went away--never to be missed. It was just too hard! Mac, with OS X, is everything my Amiga was--except better.

I've managed to woo my mal-adept wife to a G4 iMac with little fuss. Her Windows machine stands ready for a call that never seems to come. Her Mac-hating Web developer came over a while back to do some work and tried to use the iMac. She was about to throw up her hands, her lunch, and my wife's iMac when I asked:

"What do you want?"
"A terminal window. PLEASE."
"That little icon up there?"
"Right! Oh, yes! Go away, now. Yum!"

She is not yet a convert, but she no longer hates the Mac (or any GUI) interface. Maybe not all things for all people, but something good for most people.

The people you found who were *nix folk prior to switching might have more to do with who you asked than anything else. If most of those you asked were already *nix users, you can expect the responders to follow that pattern. OS X is really the first *nix that works well as a desktop system. I can be as geeky as I need to be with it, but don't have to be geeky at all if I don't want to be. Just like an Amiga. But even better.

Dan Barthel explains why he's about to become an ex-switcher: digital photography. He feels that Apple's support for some of his software and equipment isn't as good as it is on the PC.

I have two Win2K systems at home and a shiny new iMac. I bought the iMac for several reasons:

  1. I wanted a Unix box to fool around with, but mainly,
  2. I've moved heavily into digital photography, and I thought the Mac would be a better bet than Win2K.

I've had lots of experience with the prior Mac operating systems (mainly 6 and 7) as president and CTO of The Font Company, and knew from the outset that I want nothing to do with the old systems. OS X was clearly the attraction for me.

I was right on point 1: the Mac is now a wonderful Unix box. But I find the Mac is useless by itself for digital photography. None of my vendors support OS X at this point, and I'm talking serious equipment (Canon D60, and Minolta Dimage Scan Elite image capture, and Epson 2200 printer with all options). If it's supported at all on the Mac, my stuff either requires a complete restart under OS 9, or a crippled app running under OS 9. In the case of third party image-capture programs for the D60, they aren't even available.

So, instead of killing Windows at home, I'm sadly thinking about selling my Mac and buying a big Dull box, simply because it does my job. Never would I have imagined that this would be the situation. It was also disappointing to find out that Adobe has no cross platform licensing options for the one user, multiple box situation, thus really running up the $$ for software. Which reminds me, it's also not nice to have to pay $129 for Jaguar after owning the iMac for less than 6 months.

Feel free to pass this on to Jobs. It's my guess that anyone doing serious photography is at least a dual platform user, or if not, only a Windows user. Shame on Canon and Minolta, and for that matter Adobe, for taking so long to support OS X. Apple has serious problems with the pro digital photography market. Unlike their seamless support for DV, photography is a mess.

My response, which I passed on to Dan:

I don't have a direct line to Jobs. But I did pass on your comments to the developer support group at Apple, and got back some comments, which I'll summarize below. This is not an official Apple response, just my digest of what I understood from the discussion:

I hope this helps. Your comments do point out something really important: a platform is an ecosystem. Apple can't do it all. It needs support from its vendors. And that takes time, especially when people had written Apple off for so long. So do be sure to tell your vendors that OS X support is important to you! Hang in there, and things will get better and better.

Dan Barthel replied:

Yes the D60 is supported by Jaguar, but not by any of the RAW capture programs. I save all my photographs in Canon RAW format and post process using either Canon's utility or Breeze Browser on the PC. The reasons are: 1) You get the full 12 bit data from the camera, which means that contrast and color balancing is much better with Photoshop; 2) You can adjust the sharpening, saturation, and white balance when post processing. None of this is available under OS X.

I have the latest Minolta Dimage Scan Elite II scanner with both USB and FireWire interfaces. No word from Minolta about when they will support this really nice device.

I also have Colorvision's USB Spyder to calibrate monitors. Again no OS X support.

The Epson 2200 print driver is there but is feature-challenged compared to either OS 9 or the PC, regarding changing inks and papers.

Every heavy hitter I know doing digital photography is a mixed mode shop. This speaks volumes for my frustration. Most of the guys do data capture and raw conversion on a PC, and artistic correction on the Mac. Along with the compatibility issues mentioned above, there is also the nasty problem of raw CPU power. It takes 63 seconds to convert a D60 raw image to 16-bit TIFF on a 900MHz PIII, so all those Intel and AMD cycles look very attractive.

I completely agree with you that a platform is an ecosystem, and that Apple's partners are not climbing on fast enough. The digital photography people need to look hard at the wonderful world of DV support to see what is possible.

In the meantime, the Gateway flatscreen iMac-alike looks very interesting. Ugly, but functional with a 2.5GHz cpu, 6 USB ports, and 2 FireWire ports. Comparison price is about the same as a 17" iMac with a gig of memory and a 120GB hard disk. I'm taking my calibrator up to the store to see how good the LCD screen really is before I decide. I'm also curious to see what happens to 63-second file conversion times.

On an associated topic, since I don't have Jaguar, I don't know how printing support has improved, but ideally the Mac should see and use all of the Windows-networked printers out there and vice versa, not just postscript printers. This certainly was not the case with 10.1 even with Dave, and is another problem for mixed sites.

It also would be nice to plug a PC FireWire drive into the Mac and have it understand Fat-32 and NTFS, but now I'm being greedy. ;-)

What's sad is I really would prefer the Mac to work up to its potential. So please don't stop working, Apple. I really am on your side.

Dan, I hope you hang in there. I'm sure that the support will continue to get better. I know lots of professional photographers, including Derrick Story (author of our upcoming Digital Photography Pocket Guide), who are very happy with Mac OS X, and I'm sure that as the platform matures, the support you're looking for will be there.

Austin Sloat says Canon has an OS X version of its Canon Utilities:

Canon has available an OS X native version of its Canon Utilities. You have to call them and order a CD for $19. I bought it for PhotoStitch, but Image Browser, Remote Capture, and RAW Image Converter are all supported. The interfaces are not completely "Aqua-fied," but as far as I can tell they work fine. I use a PowerShot S30, which I realize is not a D60, but everything on Canon's site indicates that the software is the same. Dan should give it a shot and see if Canon's OS X RAW converter works for him. I have not played with it as my needs are strictly amateur and I have no real need for the RAW format.

Michael Lamoureux writes that what's missing is "focus follows mouse" and hiding windows with one keystroke.

I just have one issue with Mac OS X.

(Disclaimer: I have yet to upgrade to OS X, but plan to finally give it a go in the next day or two. This comment is based on information provided to me by friends who have switched already--all Unix geeks.)

The one missing feature that I believe is most critical to me being happy using Mac OS X on the desktop has everything to do with focus. I always use "focus follows mouse." I hate click to type. I didn't care on the 128K Mac I used back in 1985. When you are only running one app at a time and you have a 9" screen, who cares? But every time I use a "modern" desktop OS, I miss it. I don't want to have to click on the window, I don't want it to raise automagically, and an even bigger issue is the lack of a keystroke to send a window to the back. I hate having to "windowshade" most of the windows under Mac OS 9 just so I can find the window I'm looking for.

My understanding is that you still can't get this under Mac OS X even with Fink or XDarwin. IMHO, I should at least be able to select this behaviour with an option. Tell me they are all wrong and there is some hidden option for this.

I've been using Macs since the 128K Mac. All of the home computers that I have purchased (five) have been Macs. I have used a Sun as my primary desktop at work since 1988 (except one bad month when my office flooded and I was forced to use an HPUX box as a desktop). I've used Sun Windows, Sun View, then switched to X, wherein I've used OLWM, OLVWM, Motif (briefly!), fvwm, CDE (gag!), Enlightenment, SawMill, and sawfish. I don't use KDE or GNOME. I have never had a Windows box on my desk. I really like the Mac interface, but sometimes wish I knew how Mac power users get by without features I take for granted under Unix.

Jacques Brierre wants to know where ktrace went. Unfortunately, I don't have an answer for him.

Interesting article (though the "alpha geek" choice leaves me a bit confused).

I've been in the development and operations business for about 20 years. The first Mac I used was the 128K (pre-Plus). Professionally, I work on Suns, Linux servers, anything that networks.

I've taken my Mac and plugged it in at work (no problem there with OS 7, 8, etc.), yet I keep hearing the old stories about how difficult it is to integrate Macs. Mind you, all I had to do was plug in and set DHCP or a fixed address.

Tried NeXT and went to camp. . . . More OS releases than my wallet could handle and my gorgeous 2-headed NeXT Dimension Cube was sold. I've since been looking for a desktop Linux that would first be stable, not have a mind of its own, and not impede me. My Macs have run MkLinux, Suse, LinuxPPC 2000, and I forget what else, while my Dell laptop gave me a consistent Win2K. I really kept going back and forth between Linux and Win2K. Then I decided to try OS X, installed 10.1.1 (not a bad start) and ordered 10.1.4.

The Dell started gathering dust. OS X--finally a nice tool set, standard Unix facilities--but why on earth is ktrace not part of the standard compile? While I'm on this, and this my favorite S. Jobs question, You still don't have the "Point to Select" option (a sore point with the NeXT's UI). Somehow, Apple has decided that you are to click on a window to select it, not merely pass your mouse over it, whereas Solaris, X, etc. do give you the choice.

Well, Windows is no longer necessary. The laptop got so lonely it broke. When I repair it, though, I will not install Windows. I'd have to buy it, and I've already bought OS X. But I have Solaris X86 and that's what I will run on this laptop. Can't wait.

For the "alpha geek" reference, see my article Inventing the Future.

Alex Bangs is sympathetic to the Mac/PC file-transfer conundrum and worked around it with Xamba.

I noticed that Brian [Dear] was complaining about xfring files between Mac and PC and specifically not wanting to fiddle with Samba. I'm sympathetic to this. I ended up giving up on trying to do this through mounting the PC disk on the Mac (given various security layers), and I thought I'd try Samba, but I wasn't up for lots of config file manipulation. Instead, I was able to put the Xamba package on the Mac and get Samba up very quickly. My only caveat: While it has a nice UI for configuration, the version I used (2.6) did no error checking, so you can set it up, let 'er rip, and then have no idea why it isn't working, until you check the logs and see complaints about something in the config files.

Anyway, I haven't read the details on Jaguar, but it sounds like it has more built-in to share files easily. We'll see.

My own story: I've been a Mac user since early 1984, got one of the first Macs to arrive in Indianapolis (I'm in California now). Over time, I've given it up at work (my customers don't use them) and even at home, where my wife was the Mac user but tried Windows 2000. She got tired of that, we got an iMac, and once 10.1 came out, I was hooked on OS X. Got an iBook in part so I can get more time on it without stealing hers. Now if I can just figure out how to have an excuse to use one at work. Despite being the CTO of the company, I still have those pesky customers to deal with. ;-)

Mark Boudreau recommends Emailchemy to help move email over to OS X.

I liked your article about the Mac OS X switching that is going on. I wanted a laptop for Web development work and thought about getting a Thinkpad and installing Linux. Then I saw OS X and bought a PowerBook. I love it. I still use my Windows desktop for games and my old Linux box for fun Linux hacking (running Gentoo), but I've moved my life to the PowerBook. I still have to use Windows at work, but I've been telling everyone about how cool OS X is, and I'm slowly winning them over.

Like Brian Dear, I had years worth of Eudora mail to try and convert and I had a hell of a time doing it. I've moved over 99% of it using Emailchemy. It's 25 bucks, but it's worth it. If you know a lot of people that are having trouble making the switch, have them try a demo of this and hopefully they'll be pleased.

Thanks for all your work in the computing world. Keep up the good work and keep fighting the good fight.

An anonymous tip on how to transfer email:

Brian Dear complained about poor tech support in transferring Eudora for Windows files over to the Apple's Mail app. Here are two ways to do it.

Method 1:

  1. Upgrade to the latest free version of Eudora for Windows (version 5.1). This ensures that the mailboxes are in Unix mbox format.

  2. Install the latest free version of Eudora for Mac (version 5.1) on either Mac OS 9 or X; it doesn't matter.

  3. Locate the Eudora Documents folder on both Win98 and your Mac. It can be in varying places. In this folder, locate the "Mail Folder." Transfer everything in your Win98 "Mail Folder" to your Mac "Mail Folder." (You are basically copying your mailboxes over.) If you start up Eudora on your Mac, you should now be able to see all your old messages in the same mailboxes you created originally in Windows.

  4. Start up the Mail app. Use the Import command to transfer your new Mac Eudora mailboxes.

Method 2 (requires Microsoft Entourage):

  1. Upgrade to the latest free version of Eudora (version 5.1). This ensures that the mailboxes are in Unix mbox format.

  2. Locate the Eudora Documents folder in Win98. It can be in varying places. In this folder, locate the "Mail Folder." Copy only the files in your Win98 "Mail Folder" to your Mac. (It doesn't matter where you put them).

  3. Start up Microsoft Entourage (a program in Microsoft Office v X). Select the Import command under the File menu. Choose Import from Text File. Choose Text File in MBOX format. Select any Eudora mailbox that you copied over to your Mac. Each mail file will now show up as a mail folder in Entourage.

  4. Now that you went through all that hassle, if you still want your files in Mail app, start up the Mail app. Select the Import command. Select Entourage files. You are now importing all your Entourage mail files.

Steven Champeon, a contributor to Unix Power Tools, 3rd Edition writes that OS X is for people who love Unix and the Mac.

I saw your post to IP and didn't figure I was relevant to your survey, until I read your piece on O'Reilly Network. I figured I'd chime in now.

I've been using OS X since the beta period early last year. I'd switched from a Toshiba laptop running Windows 95 back in 1997 to an iMac, as an alternative primary desktop to my ancient Sun IPX, and then to a Pismo G3 laptop when I needed a laptop. I'd had a Mac Centris 610 since 1993, and used both Windows (mostly NT) and Solaris on the job, with Solaris as my primary platform until 1996 or so. When I got my PowerBook in mid-2000, I dual-booted Mac OS 9 and Yellow Dog Linux until the OS X beta came out, when I switched to a triple-boot system. But I found that I never booted into Linux anymore, and hardly booted into OS 9 except to fix things that wouldn't run, or install, properly under Classic. This was even more true under the 10.0 and 10.1 releases of OS X.

I just upgraded to OS 10.2 this weekend, and so far, so good. After a bit of restoration to the things I'd tweaked (such as my Apache config, various preference settings, etc.) and upgrading some primary utilities (such as DragThing, TinkerTool, and the like) it's running nicely.

A bit more detail: I started out as a TRS-80 user (1980), then went to C64s (1983?-) and Macs (1988-), using PCs only for VAX access. I used a Mac SE/30 as well as some old Pluses all during school. When I got out, I landed a job using Sun OS to do SGML document conversion (1993-94).

I bought the Macintosh Centris 610 for home use (1993). I'd worked on a Quadra to support grayscale scanning during 1993-94, and loved it, and I worked on various PCs to handle certain cross-platform stuff such as taking Group 4 TIFFs from the Sun OS systems over to a PC running Hiijak on Win 3.1 to do Deskew operations. My big complaint about the Mac during this time period was that MacTCP sucked. But the Internet apps were so much better that it was all worth it. OpenTransport fixed all that, and so the only thing holding the Mac back was the legacy toolbox.

When I "needed" a laptop at work, I got a Thinkpad running Win95 and only used it for email, Office apps, and Framemaker. (We had more Maker licenses for Windows than for Solaris at the time--this was 1995-96.) That Thinkpad was a brick. You could kill people with it. I'm glad I never had to swing it in anger.

When I moved on (or, more accurately, when the company melted down), I had to get a laptop for work as a consultant, and I bought what was cheap: a Toshiba Satellite with Win95--this was late 1996. Struggling with a Win95 p/100 w/8, then 20, then 36MB RAM wasn't worth it. But that's what I had, so that's what I used. And of course I still had the Mac at home, along with a Sun IPX.

When I joined hesketh.com with my current partner in 1997, I had the Mac at home, a couple of Sun IPXes at work, and a homemade WinNT machine to handle firewall/proxy service to our dialup (the IPXes had lousy serial ports that could only handle 33.6), so I could come back up to speed on NT. Good decision; as it turned out, as we had some ColdFusion work and Netscape server support work, and NT made a decent platform for that. But what a miserable experience overall: we had to reboot it at least once a week. By contrast, our Linux servers have been up for 231 days, nary a problem. We had one machine that was up for over 400 days between reboots before we finally retired it.

When we got offices and hired more employees, we took the NT box down and switched to Linux (RedHat 4.3) for our Internet firewall/proxy service and filesharing. We do our own Web hosting on Linux and have since late 1997. It's still RedHat, though I am becoming much more comfortable with FreeBSD and the other Linux variants and distros such as Debian. Mostly, we chose Linux because it was free, solid, and wasn't Windows NT/IIS. I've been an Apache guy since 0.65, and NCSA httpd before that, and though I've used IIS and ColdFusion (notably at IBM!) and Netscape's servers, I don't see much that we can't do with mod_perl, Tomcat/Jakarta, PHP, and the like. And I don't see much need for expensive server hardware and OSes like Solaris, though we're currently working with a client who is running Solaris, so the prior experience doesn't hurt. It all boils down to the command line in most cases, anyway.

I kept the Win95 laptop through my time onsite at IBM's PC company, mostly running HomeSite and Netscape and a Telnet/SSH app so I could check my mail on the Linux server. While onsite, I had to use Notes, which made me appreciate Microsoft more, oddly enough. Eventually, I stopped running Notes and made everyone I was working with contact me through my work email address rather than through Notes. I was mostly working on ColdFusion apps (via the Win95 laptop and a PC desktop) and on Perl CGI and Domino Go on AIX, so it really didn't matter much to me what I used for a desktop, as long as I had FTP and SSH, and the target system had Emacs. ;)

I got the PowerBook to replace the old Win95 laptop (and the IPX on my desktop, as well as to supplement the iMac I'd bought a few years earlier) in mid-2000, and have been running OS X in various configurations on that laptop since early 2001. So, now I'm an OS X user full-time and have been since early 2001, and I love it.

I was never really a Linux desktop user. My Solaris, Mac, and Win95/NT experience overlapped our use of Linux on the server side, but I never really wanted to go back to X Windows after I finally shut down the IPX.

I'm a fan of the Mac desktop and have been since 1988, if not earlier, and my experiences with Unix made it difficult to enjoy Windows of any stripe. This is true even now: I've used WinXP and Win2K, and it seems the simplest things are even more clunky (if prettier) now than ever.

I've always felt that Windows stood in the way of me doing what I wanted to do. Maybe I just did different things from one system to another, but I've done sysadmin on all manner of Unix systems, Mac systems, and Windows boxen, so I don't think it's just ignorance of which GUI I should be using at a given time that made Windows so awful. Mostly, it's a mismatch between what I think needs to be done and how the Windows OS has presented it to me. Even MacTCP was better; besides, I learned a lot about pre-CIDR netmasks from that UI. And don't get me started on how I had to rebuild our internal DNS from RCS files after someone plugged in a Win2K box on our network. (Groan.)

It's so very nice to have a solid Unix system on my desktop with the seamless Mac desktop experience to boot. I think this saying sums it up nicely:

BSD is for people who love Unix.
Linux is for people who hate Microsoft.

Now, OS X is for people who love Unix and the Mac. Windows doesn't even come into it, except when I have to boot VirtualPC to run some annoying Windows-only Palm conduit or test Web sites under Windows IE or Netscape Navigator, etc. Or, like now, when I need to run a Windows-only VPN client to work with one of our clients. I haven't tried out the OS X VPN yet, but I have hope that it'll do what we need it to do. I'm whittling away.

And with the promised seamless filesharing implementation OS X 10.2 claims to provide, I can't think of any reason to run Windows at all on the desktop, except where there is no alternative, as mentioned above, or if you simply prefer the apps that only run on Windows, such as HomeSite.

So, although most of our internal desktops here are Dell Win98/XP/2K boxen, primarily because the production folks love HomeSite, we do have a few iMacs and a G4 (for the test labs and designer's desktop, respectively), our internal filesharing is done via Linux, our firewall is Linux, our hosting is on Linux, and when the economy picks up, I'm going to seriously consider going to an all-OS X filesharing setup with the XServe.

From there, we'll likely continue to run Linux for the firewall -- we used an old P75 with 16MB RAM for a ten-person shop for four years, until the mobo gave out and we had to upgrade (to an old, EOL'd P233, which is incredible overkill considering the things we need it to do). The upshot is that we won't have to upgrade the firewall for a few years yet. Linux has been great for making use of older, EOL'd boxen as servers, though I suppose BSD would have worked as well, and the only real motivation for change has been a need for more disk space, not speed or RAM, for the most part. We ran our hosting service (fifty-plus Web sites running a variety of core Apache, PHP, mod_perl, and Java apps) on a p166 with 128MB RAM for three years, with almost zero downtime.

But if I could, I'd get everyone here to switch to OS X, and leave the Windows boxen to the test lab and maybe one of our production/test folks. OS X has restored choice to the desktop.

That seems like a nice note to end on. "OS X has restored choice to the desktop." So tell us about your choice. . . .

Tim O'Reilly is the founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media, Inc., thought by many to be the best computer book publisher in the world. In addition to Foo Camps ("Friends of O'Reilly" Camps, which gave rise to the "un-conference" movement), O'Reilly Media also hosts conferences on technology topics, including the Web 2.0 Summit, the Web 2.0 Expo, the O'Reilly Open Source Convention, the Gov 2.0 Summit, and the Gov 2.0 Expo. Tim's blog, the O'Reilly Radar, "watches the alpha geeks" to determine emerging technology trends, and serves as a platform for advocacy about issues of importance to the technical community. Tim's long-term vision for his company is to change the world by spreading the knowledge of innovators. In addition to O'Reilly Media, Tim is a founder of Safari Books Online, a pioneering subscription service for accessing books online, and O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, an early-stage venture firm.


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