Is Apple Evil? Will Fedora Save OLPC?

Many readers of this blog will know that I like Apple products. I bought a 12″ Powerbook back in 2003 when it was announced and I haven’t looked back.

However, I did have some issues with my purchase and had to return it for service. I mentioned this on a Slashdot comment and got slammed by the fanboys. Yeah, I did use the inflammatory “I’m a sucker” line, but that was all I could think of on short notice that was close to “switcher”. The fanboys were not amused.

At the moment I’m on my third Apple laptop. I run a lot of FOSS on it, but I like the machine and the OS quite a bit. It let’s me get things done.

But I’m not happy with Apple’s management of the iPhone/iPod Touch App Store. They have been denying certain applications pretty randomly. Some are denied on the basis that they compete with built in software (built in Apple software, there are something like 12 calculators out there), and they have also been very vague on what the rules are. I can understand things like “no tethering apps” since the Apple/AT&T business model is built on preventing that, but some of the denials are quite arbitrary.

Think about it. As much as those of us in open source dislike Microsoft, Microsoft never actively prohibited anyone from installing software on Windows. Heck, some would say Microsoft makes it easy for darn near everyone to install software on your copy of Windows, most of the time without you knowing it.

Now the iPhone is not OSX, but if this model works for Apple, there is little preventing it from extending it to the OS. Can you imagine OS 11 where one could only download software from the App Store?

Might happen.

Now most of this is a lot of FUD, but as someone who cares and thinks about the freedom aspect of free software a lot, it has me worried. And with Linux desktops getting better and better, I’m seriously thinking my next laptop will be running Linux as the host O/S.

So for all the Apple fanboys out there about to yell at me: Apple is just making this decision easier, that’s all I’m sayin’.

Now it turns out that I’m going to get some first hand experience with a modern Linux distro on a laptop. Fedora is working on a project to insure that Fedora 10 runs on the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) XO computer.

I really like the idea behind OLPC, especially when it comes to FOSS. However it seemed the project hit a roadblock after last year’s debut when people complained about the software that shipped on it and requested Windows. I think it would be great if a full featured Linux distro was also available as an option, and so I’m going to help test Fedora 10 on OLPC hardware, and in the meantime see how much of my daily laptop needs can be met with Fedora. Most of the time I just need an editor, spell checker, browser, e-mail client and terminal app. While I don’t seriously expect the XO to be my next work laptop, it will let me experiment a bit, and, I hope, contribute something back as well.

Oh, on a side note, I’m curious about the hardware of choice for those who do run a Linux desktop as their main machine. Prior to “switching” I always liked Thinkpads, but I was wondering which vendor produced the most Linux-friendly hardware.

2 thoughts on “Is Apple Evil? Will Fedora Save OLPC?

  1. Interesting post, but .. quote:

    “Can you imagine OS 11 where one could only download software from the App Store?”

    Too far fetched. FUD, as you say yourself.

    As to the rest of the post, being a long-time linux user myself I’m hoping you will continue to share your experiences experimenting with linux on the XO. I think you will find it too slow, though. I haven’t actually used it myself but I’ve used similiar configurations hardware-wise. It works ok but once you try running more than one app at a time it will be really sluggish. Its too bad it has just 256mb RAM.

    My main desktop is Debian’s “testing” (that is, a continously updating on-the-edge-distro which will “freeze” every other year for Debian to make its named releases from) and it has been running for about two years now. Its a custom build with a first gen Intel Core 2 cpu, an Intel ICH7R chipset and a NVIDIA graphics card. Unfortunately it is STILL very important not to pick the latest and greatest hardware if you plan to get the most value when using linux – even more so when it comes to laptops.

    A previous gen Thinkpad would be a good choice, as would the Dell XPS series. Other than that, really any “business grade” laptop of the next-to-newest revision would do. But it _will_ take some amount of work to get all the wrinkles sorted out. Bluetooth, card readers and some wifi-chipsets are common problem areas.

    Good luck with your OLPC-testing, just out of interest, where do you gather your results?

  2. As you mention, I wasn’t really implying that Apple would do such a thing, but the fact that the O/S is closed means it is a possibility, although far fetched.

    The reason I use a Mac, however, is because “Bluetooth, card readers and some wifi-chipsets” tend to “just work”. I can remember when I was using Red Hat 7 as a desktop and the trouble it took to just get online wirelessly (iwconfig anyone?). We’ve had both Fedora and Ubuntu running on our classroom iMacs and it seems much better.

    One of our OGP members is a Debian committer and he runs “testing” as his distro of choice as well. I’m also thinking that Ubuntu might finally break through in the desktop market with its plan to license closed drivers and codecs. While Stallman would probably disagree with me, his own LGPL was created to act as a bridge between the closed and open worlds so perhaps this will as well.

    Heck, even Apple sales skyrocketed after they switched to Intel and allowed you to run Windows.

    I still have a couple of years left on the Macbook, but I’m seriously thinking of switching. I’ll have to do my research then.

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