Tiger burns bright
Apple's Mac OS X 10.4 brings productivity to desktops, turnkey power to servers
Users usually don’t expect much from OSes. They’re the foundation for prefabricated or build-it-yourself solutions, but none is a rich solution, a self-contained platform out of the box. If you want a complete productivity platform, you can nickel and dime your way there with Windows, hammer and saw your way there with Linux … or hit the ground running with OS X.
Unlike any OS X before it or any competing desktop OS, Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) sends users’ productivity skyrocketing before one manual is opened or one application is purchased, thanks to stellar new search and workflow tools. OS X Server 10.4 has made an impressive trek, putting in one place every service you could need or want, with the exception of a commercial database. It boasts turnkey ease of operation but no restrictions on customizability or configurability.
Open source stripes
There are three Tigers: The Tiger client, OS X Server 10.4 (Tiger Server if you like, but I do not) and Darwin 8. Darwin is Tiger’s foundation. It is an open source project, maintained by Apple, that stays in perfect lock-step with Tiger and OS X Server 10.4.
Darwin is not the whole of Tiger or OS X Server 10.4; Apple adds a good bit of proprietary value to both. Open source developers, however, can obtain OS X, its extraordinary documentation, development tools, and commercial knowledge base, all free, and ignore all of Apple’s proprietary extras. Indeed, the Mac’s graphical interface is easily obliterated in favor of totally open source GNOME or KDE presentation layers and window managers. Even then, Apple’s Quartz Extreme graphical acceleration applies.
Darwin 8 compiles to a bootable operating system that, when run on a Mac, is binary compatible with Tiger’s Unix. Darwin 8 will also build and boot on 32-bit x86 hardware. Yes, Darwin runs on x86, a fact that, whenever mentioned, gets people all stirred up. Unstir yourself. I don’t have time to address the whole OS X-on-x86 issue here, but I take it up in my blog and my Ahead of the Curve column.
Don’t think of Darwin and OS X as analogous to Red Hat’s free, open source Fedora project and Red Hat’s Enterprise Linux. Fedora is, in Red Hat’s words, “a virtual laboratory” where “visitors can make available incremental code improvements and bug fixes.” Darwin is not an incubator; what developers see is the fully cooked, validated code that Apple ships to paid OS X license holders. And when Apple issues a fix or enhancement to an open source component of OS X, Darwin gets it the same day -- not after a delay of several weeks, as is typical with commercial open source operations.
Apple selects and grooms open source projects for Darwin, a controversial practice that's actually a blessing for commercial users. By design, there is one mail server, one Web server, one instant messaging server, and so on; the scavenger-hunt quality of Linux is absent. And Apple made no effort to cripple Darwin to make it unsuitable for production use. In my opinion, Apple sticks its neck out farther in this regard than do other players.