It is no secret that I am a pretty big fan of the things that Apple makes. I got my first Apple laptop on January 15th in 2005. Five short years ago *sniff*. I loved that laptop like nothing else. It was small and portable, it was beautiful, and the operating system worked great. I now recommend to everyone, get an Apple computer. They just work. And they work very well.
It was with that in mind that last week I installed Linux on my laptop, making a full commitment to different operating system. When I say I switched operating systems, I mean to say that I have completely changed the most fundamental part of how I use my computer. I spend 12-plus hours a day on my computer. Needless to say, this is a Big Deal.
The “big-deal-ness” is compounded by how big a fan I am of the things Apple makes. I think Apple makes the best laptops you can buy. I think Apple makes the best phone you can buy. I think Apple makes the best MP3 player you can buy. I think Apple makes the most user-friendly operating system you can use. Basically, Apple is like no other company in the world in terms of making absolutely top-notch products.
So, what am I replacing Apple’s operating system with? Linux, of course!
But here is the million dollar question: Why am I switching?
- Basically, to use an over-used buzzword, Linux is more “open” than both Windows and Mac OS X.
- Apple has been making decisions lately that I philosophically disagree with.
About a month ago Apple announced its latest and greatest product, the iPad. While the iPad looks awesome, it continues the model set up by the iPhone, where if you want to write an application for the device you have to get Apple’s approval first. I don’t like this model. I’ll even go so far as to say I hate this model. I don’t think this model is in the best interest of the consumers of Apple’s devices. With the iPhone, it was at least excusable, because you could argue that Apple had to lock the system down tight because they were operating on AT&T’s phone network. But with the iPad, while there is a 3G option, it doesn’t feel as excusable. Maybe it still is. But the main point is, that if the future of Apple’s products are devices like this, where you have to ask Apple’s permission to install something on your computer, well, that’s bullshit.
Let me quote what I said in a conversation with a friend:
But the more Apple locks up (even if it is design perfection) the more I am going to push against it. I don’t like patents. I don’t like secrets. I don’t like rules. I believe in a very communistic approach to development: I will never keep the things I develop all to myself. If anyone wants it, I would be happy to give it to them. I feel this way because it is precisely the projects that do this that make it fun for me to use my computer. PHP, MySQL, CouchDB, Sqlite, Apache, Vim, Node, V8, Ruby, Python, Inkscape, JQuery. I use computers a lot because I like to program and design. I don’t use computers a lot for any other reason. If I didn’t program/design I would only use computers as a communication tool. And judging by how much I do that, it wouldn’t be a lot.
So, openness and freedom are the single most important part of what make computers enjoyable for me. Period.
Then last week it was announced that Apple was suing another cellphone maker called HTC for patent infringement. And well, that just pissed me off.
I love math. That’s why it was one of my majors in college. In math you take a set of assumptions and constraints and then see what other rules, shortcuts, algorithms, systems you can develop from those rules. It is that simple, yet from that you get things like Calculus. Now, I don’t think many people out there would argue that you should be able to patent Math. Imagine if someone had a patent on Calculus.
Well, computer science is no different than math. Computer science is in fact just applied math. Just math with a different set of assumptions and constraints. So, it seems completely illogical that software patents are legal.
I’m sure economists might argue that patents are valuable from a market point of view, and that a lot of research and development wouldn’t happen without the promise of exclusivity. While that might be true, that doesn’t make them right. (And I am in no way saying software patents are similar to slavery) but it can probably be argued that slavery is better for a certain market (namely better for the slave holders) but that doesn’t make it right.
I see software patents as a great wrong. And something that currently and actively makes the world a worse place.
[As a quick aside, I’m not completely sure what this means for my opinions on patents in general, but I am pretty sure that I think the whole patent system should be abolished. You shouldn’t be able to own ideas.]
My aforementioned friend had the following to say in response to my complaints about Apple’s lawsuit:
unfortunately for us, we don’t live in a land where unicorns’ tears make everyone happy and everyone only wants to make the world a better place. apple is a company, a huge one, just like Microsoft and google. and their goal is not our goal; their goal is to make more money, using their innovation to do it. I just wish they didn’t have to hurt others’ innovation to do it too.
I agree with my friend in that I wish Apple wasn’t doing this. But when I read that, I realized I could no longer support Apple. I can no longer support an entity that is willing to sacrifice what I see as moral obligations in the pursuit of making more money.
I acknowledge though, that Apple is a company. And it needs to make money or it wouldn’t exist. But my money is a way of voting. And when I spend my money on Apple products I am saying that I endorse what they are doing. When I use their operating system, I am telling the world and my friends that this company is worth choosing.
I have decided to put my vote elsewhere.1 So, I am switching operating systems. I know I will be faced with a tough choice in the future when I need a new laptop or computer and have to choose who I am going to buy it from. I’ll have to choose the company that is the least “evil” I guess.
The operating system I chose (the Ubuntu variant of Linux) was named after a South African philosophy called “Ubuntu”. To quote from Desmond Tutu:
One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu - the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality - Ubuntu - you are known for your generosity.
We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.
An operating system with that as its guiding philosophy? That I can get behind.
As to what I think other people should do is another issue. I don’t think Linux is at the stage where non-computer people can use it enjoyably. So, most people are faced with a choice between Windows and Mac OS X. In that case both choices are “evil” and I would choose Mac OS X. Google is coming out with an operating system this year called “Chrome OS” which will be completely open sourced. Maybe use that. Though, I am not sure how well it is going to work without an internet connection, since it is highly based on their Chrome internet browser. ↩