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Why Desktop Linux Holds Its Own Against OS X

Apple spends millions of dollars each year to explain why OS X is the world's best desktop operating system. That doesn't necessarily mean it's true.
Apple spends millions of dollars each year to explain why OS X is the world's best desktop operating system. That doesn't necessarily mean it's true.TechRepublic blogger Jack Wallen recently posted ten things that he thinks Linux does better than Mac OS X. His list is a welcome antidote to Apple's (unsurprising) party line: Anything Linux can do, OS X can do better.

Wallen's list is also likely to drive quite a few Mac fanatics straight up the nearest wall. But we'll stick to business here rather than pleasure.

An especially interesting point for small-business IT users is the fact that Linux is typically far more portable than OS X: "Another area where Linux shines over all other operating systems is in its ability to migrate an installation from hardware to hardware. Linux has an uncanny ability to be able to relocate. . . So long as the architecture was the same. . . the migration always seemed to work with little to no adjusting. OS X, on the other hand, is landlocked to the machine it was installed in. Also, with Linux, you can take certain directories and move them from machine to machine. This works well with the /home directory. Having the ability to migrate your /home directory from one machine to another can make building machines a snap. With OS X, youll always be reinstalling from scratch." Some of the points Wallen raises are a bit more subjective than others. For example, although he touts the fact that Linux users have far more options for customizing their desktops than OS X users, this is a double-edged sword: Linux offers so many customization options that new users sometimes find themselves biting off more than they can chew.

Other points, however, are clear as day, such as the absurd disparity in price between a new, full-featured Linux system and equivalent Apple hardware. And then there are the surprising-but-true nuggets, such as the fact that Linux systems tend to offer better security than OS X systems -- no mean feat, given the fact that OS X systems offer superb security by almost any impartial standard.

The point here isn't to slam OS X. I currently own a Mac, just as I have for many years, and I believe that OS X is an outstanding desktop operating system. But I also believe that OS X -- even aside from the premium prices Apple charges for its hardware -- is not the right solution for a lot of buyers who are convinced otherwise. Whether or not you agree with Wallen's list, I think it's a good effort to tell the Linux desktop's side of this story.

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Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer