Mac… the computer of choice for the new “Hacker Generation”

Macs are coming back strong with software hackers; and I’m not talking about hackers in the sense of 1995 movie HACKERS. Software hackers are people who are REALLY good at coding and can hack together just about anything they put their mind on doing with any language they want. See Paul Graham’s (author of a number of computer books) description of what it is to be a hacker here. Many articles have been posted by both pro-Apple web sites and pro-Geek websites alike, but Paul Graham’s essay on the topic is one of the best I’ve read.

Mr. Graham takes the stance that it’s the combination of beautifully designed computers along with the stability and security of FreeBSD (and it doesn’t hurt at all that FreeBSD is an open-source developed OS). His essay also mentioned a number of times that it’s the “Hackers” that lead the pack as far as what is to come in the future of personal computing.

“If you want to know what ordinary people will be doing with computers in ten years, just walk around the CS department at a good university. Whatever they’re doing, you’ll be doing.” – Paul Graham

Along the lines of what Mr. Graham stated above, the website, an affiliate with O’Reilly publishing (which happens to be one of the best publishers of computer books I’ve come across to date), published an article by Tim O’Reilly himself about the “Alpha Geek” leading the pack towards the Macintosh computer.

“Mac OS X is a great platform. It’s building the future into the system, in terms of the technology choices it’s making. It’s building on an open, extensible framework in the form of Darwin and FreeBSD. It’s learning lessons from the open source community.
Now, as developers, you have to do the same thing. Think network. Think open. Think extensible. Play well with others.” – Tim O’Reilly

This has been something that I’ve actually witnessed first-hand for the last few years (and even wrote a little about it last year), but a recent Slashdot post pointed me to a few stories, blogs, and articles of interest that help to back this phenomenon.

Just over a year ago, I had the privilege of putting OSX 10.3 on my girlfriends PowerBook and, I’d have to say; it was one of the most pleasant OS installs I’ve worked on. From using her computer for the last few years and from getting more into Linux-based computers, I’d have to say purchasing a Mac is becoming more and more likely if I’m ever going to own a laptop.

This is common among tech-savvy computer users from what I’ve witnessed: a number of my friends and acquaintances in the Computer Engineering, Computer Science, and Electrical Engineering programs here at Lehigh swear by their iBooks and PowerBooks and all of the users are quite a bit happier using the UNIX-based computers as opposed to using Windows OS computers.

Having the ability to use terminal for command-line jobs and x11 terminals servers for remote connections between computers proves that an Apple is quite a powerful tool when used properly. Native SSH support, root passwords required when new software is installed, root passwords required when new hardware is installed, not being able to log into the root account from boot-up, etc… also add to list that makes an Apple computer stronger in many ways than a Windows machine is.

I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to Apple in the coming months and years… maybe one day they will replace Gateway and Dell as a leading provider of home computers.



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